Australia: 'Comfortable' Henman eases through

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The Independent Online

Tim Henman reached the third round of the Australian Open today with victory over Czech Radek Stepanek in four sets.

The British number one, again cheered on by a vocal set of supporters at Melbourne Park, outclassed the frustrated world number 45 6-2 4-6 6-3 6-0 with another comprehensive display of serve-volley tennis.

Henman dropped the second set after failing to convert any of five break points in the last game, but was in charge for long periods of the match, particularly on his own serve, and remained focused as Stepanek repeatedly questioned close line calls.

The victory, Henman's second in as many meetings over Stepanek, was sealed with a flurry of thrilling tennis in the final set as he booked a third-round clash with the dangerous unseeded Argentinian Guillermo Canas.

"I got off to a really good start. I felt like in the first set and a half I was dictating a lot of the play and to a certain extent, dominating the match," he said.

"At the end of the second set he started to play much better. He served better and took the initiative away from me a little bit.

"We had a tight game at 5-4 in the second set but it didn't go my way.

"That said, I still felt very confident and comfortable about the way I was playing. To then go and win the third and fourth sets three and love, it was very good for my confidence."

Henman, appearing relaxed, started strongly and as Stepanek became increasingly distracted by line call queries the 11th seed moved a break up.

"There were three in a row that went my way. I thought it was pretty humorous, but I don't think he did," said Henman afterwards.

The pair then swapped breaks before Henman strung together three successive games and wrapped up the opening set with another to take it 6-2.

After an uncertain start, Stepanek was beginning to grow in confidence, holding three successive games before pulling out the crucial break of serve for a 4-3 lead in the second set.

It was Henman's poorest game of the match and Stepanek took full advantage, cementing his lead by holding his own serve to love.

Henman, who under new coach Paul Annacone appears to have developed a stronger will and determination, began to crank up the pressure from the net in search of a break back.

With Stepanek serving for the set, Henman won five break points in all but somehow the Czech - in between ongoing complaints about the quality of the line judges - saved both.

After wasting those five break points, Henman ensured he capitalised on the very next opportunity to move 2-0 up in the third set as Stepanek dumped an overhead into the net.

Henman was now back on song, comfortably holding his own serve to love and then pressuring Stepanek's to cruise through the third set 6-3.

Once again Henman forced break point early in the set, sealed with a magnificent drop volley, before holding his own serve to love for the sixth time in the match.

From there on in it was a cakewalk for Henman, who produced some thrilling tennis to break Stepanek on two more occasions to seal the match.

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