Tennis Wimbledon: Henman ready for Grosjean's hardball

Wimbledon 99: British No 1 braced for Frenchman after Woodruff win
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The Independent Online
AMERICANS IN Paris inspire musicals, but few attract as much sound as a Frenchman in Miami. Sebastien Grosjean only has to set foot in Le Bouchon du Grove and "La Marseillaise" resounds from the restaurant and can be heard the length and breadth of Coconut Grove.

Grosjean's unassuming manner captivated the tennis enthusiasts of South Florida as he advanced to the men's singles final at the Lipton Championships in March, eventually losing to Richard Krajicek.

Pleasing though it would be for Grosjean to impress the Wimbledon patrons today, when he plays Tim Henman for the first time, in the third round, the 21-year-old from Marseilles will be aware that anthems are not part of the pageant. Moreover, the majority around the courtside will be hoping to see Seb Bigjohn cut down to size.

Not that Grosjean is a giant, particularly in the lofty world of professional tennis. At 5ft 9in, he is knee-high to a Krajicek and a couple of inches shorter than Andre Agassi, the game's biggest personality.

Grosjean, the world junior champion in 1996, has only competed in the main event at Wimbledon once before, achieving more than any Brit in recent history with the exception of Henman, Greg Rusedski and Jeremy Bates, by advancing to the fourth round. He then ran into Pete Sampras, who dispatched him in straight sets.

Henman, whose form and confidence have improved during the course of two matches, the second of which, a win against the American Chris Woodruff, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6, started in the gloaming on Wednesday evening and was completed in sunshine yesterday, will treat Grosjean with respect.

"It's a similar type of match as Woodruff, but Grosjean's probably won quite a few more matches," Henman said. "It's not going to be easy. He's probably going to be staying back most of the time, and with the courts playing the way they are, it gives those types of guys an opportunity to do that. The courts are hard. They're relatively fast, but the ball is definitely bouncing up. So I'm going to have to be ready again."

While on the subject of respect, Henman was heard to ask the Wimbledon referee, Alan Mills, if he thought the failing light was going to improve by stretching Wednesday's session to one more game, which Mills wanted to do at 6-4, 2-3.

"At 1-1, I said I just wanted a rough idea of when we were going to finish," Henman said, "because it is quite difficult playing when when you know you're going to be stopping in the short term. At 2-3, I didn't fancy serving in that next game. If I were to lose my serve then, it puts a totally different complexion on that set, and perhaps the match.

"Alan was saying to me, `It's better is we stop when it's even', and I wanted to say, `If Chris will will just hit four returns in the bottom of the net, I'll go and play the game, sure', but I don't think that was the reality of it. I think we both felt it was too dark."

Henman, who had been unhappy about three overrules by the Portuguese umpire, Carlos Ramos, on Wednesday, settled down with few of the lapses we had seen during the concluding two sets of his first-round match against Arnaud Di Pasquale.

In broad daylight, Henman held to love for 3-3 and then broke Woodruff for 4-3. Down 0-40, the American hesitated before hitting a backhand, thinking a shot by Henman might land long. It didn't, but the off-balance Woodruff's did. Henman saved two break points to hold for 5-3, and broke Woodruff with a drop-shot to secure the set.

Woodruff double-faulted to lose serve in the second game of the third set, unnerved, perhaps, by Henman's spectacular forehand drive down the line to 0-30. Henman obligingly double-faulted in the next game to bring Woodruff back into the set, and contest moved on to a tie-break.

Henman gained the initiative when Woodruff hit a lob over the baseline after making another late adjustment in the belief that a Henman shot would land long. The Briton was guilty of a wild forehand at 5-3, which put the shoot-out back on serve, but reached match point at 6-4 with a forehand volley, and then watched Woodruff double-fault.

A few years ago, great fun was had by the media when Agassi shaved his chest in the cause of "aerodynamics". This week, the French Open champion is so clean-shaven that his head is as smooth as a free range egg; almost as smooth as the majority of his tennis so far.

He advanced to the third round yesterday with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win against Guillermo Canas, a 21-year-old Argentinian who has yet to find his feet on grass courts. The result, coupled with Agassi's straight-sets win against the Romanian Andrei Pavel in the first round, means that the Las Vegan has conceded only 16 games.

The remarkable thing is that Agassi lost three of those games at the start of the second set yesterday, when his serve was frequently under pressure.

"Canas was returning well, and hitting the ball big, and fighting hard," Agassi acknowledged. "At that particular time of the match, there was still a lot to be determined, and I had to continue executing my shots. It turned out, in hindsight, that he couldn't keep that level up."

Goran Ivanisevic and Sandon Stolle's father, Fred, have something in common. Both have lost in three Wimbledon men's singles finals. Fair enough, but Sandon did not have to make life so difficult for Ivanisevic in the second round yesterday.

The Croat saved six set points in the opening set, winning a tie-break, 8-6, and finally shook off the Aussie, 7-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.