Back injury threatens Henman's progress

Debbie Kleinman got her hands on Tim Henman's body again yesterday, with the full approval of the British No 1's wife, Lucy. The chiropractor's kneading fingers could make the difference between progress or defeat for Henman at the US Open here today.

Henman, due to mark his 30th birthday next Monday, is less concerned with his advancing years than the immediate problem of a lower back injury that threatens his prospects of gaining a place in the last 16.

He is in good hands. Kleinman, who has eased pain for those such as Ivan Lendl and Steffi Graf, has worked on Henman's back since last weekend, when he doubted if he would be fit to start the tournament. Henman believes the injury is related to spending too much time playing golf after Wimbledon.

Henman, the fifth seed, today plays Michal Tabara, a Czech qualifer, who had treatment to his lower back en route to a second round win against Mardy Fish, America's Olympic Games silver medallist, after five sets. Henman won his two previous matches against Tabara, ranked 149 in the world, but they have not met since 2001.

Before Tabara arrived at Flushing Meadows for the qualifying event, he had not competed on concrete courts since losing to Britain's Alex Bodanovic in the second round of a Challenger tournament in Sarajavo in March. The US Open is only Tabara's third Tour-level event of the year.

That would suggest Henman is favourite to reach the fourth round here for the third time in his career. Aside from the respective concerns about aching backs, however, the 25-year-old Czech has built his confidence by winning three qualifying matches and overcoming Max Mirnyi, ranked 65, and Fish, ranked 28, in the main draw.

"I'm still not 100 per cent," Henman said after defeating Jerome Golmard of France in the second round. "I didn't really feel I was able to bend and push off for certain shots. If there are low volleys, whereas before I'd be very keen to take the ball out of the air, at the moment I'll take a half volley, because I don't have to get down so low.

"Sometimes, when I've got to change direction quickly, I'm a bit stiff, but also I'm a bit afraid mentally as well. I'd like to think that I'm going to have a good practice and try and hit some of those shots to free up myself, physically and mentally."

Henman's finest performance at a Grand Slam championship outside Wimbledon was his advance to the French Open semi-finals in June, in spite of a viral infection. The malady enabled him to play without feeling undue pressure to get results. Likewise, his most impressive victory, winning the Madrid Masters last October, came when he thought he was merely winding down a season beset by injury.

"That's still something I'm trying to grasp," Henman said, "the fact that trying harder is not necessarily trying better. There are times when I've wanted to win too much. My focus has been on winning and losing, whereas I'm getting better about just having a purpose of what I'm trying to do out there in the matches.

"It is sort of highlighted when I go on the court and I'm unsure about whether I'm going to be able to finish the match or whether I'm going to start the match. All of a sudden, there's not even the slightest bit of concern about winning or losing, because I'm just thinking, 'well, am I physically fit to play?'"

"That's an interesting perspective to have. When I'm on the court in that frame of mind, I'm pretty relaxed, I'm playing well."

He added: "I still question my demeanour on the court at Wimbledon. I'm still a little bit unsure. In the early rounds, I was trying to be very relaxed. It was just a struggle. Then I'm trying to show a bit more emotion and get a bit more fired up. But that's not really the way I'm playing my best tennis. I don't know the answer to it. It's something I need to keep working at."

It was suggested that he might try letting the mood come naturally. "That's in an ideal world," Henman said. "Given the scenario and the situation at Wimbledon, that's easier said than done." Henman said he had not seen Tabara play much recently. "He's one these Czech guys who's very solid from the baseline and a good mover, not altogether dissimilar to Novak." Jiri Novak eliminated Henman in straight sets in the first round at the Olympics.

The biggest stir that the 5ft 9in Tabara has caused at a Grand Slam was here in 2001 when he spat in the direction of his opponent, Justin Gimelstob, after losing to the American in five sets. Tabara was upset because the 6ft 5in Gimelstob had called the trainer three times to treat blisters. "Unless he grows about another foot by the time I get back to the locker room," Gimelstob said, "he's in trouble."

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower