Brzezicki offers new French test for Henman

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The Independent Online

The latest medical bulletin ahead of the French Open was issued with the attachment of a new first-round opponent for Tim Henman today.

Henman, a surprise semi-finalist on Paris clay last year, had been due to open against Potito Starace, of Italy, ranked 63rd in the world, who held two match points against Marat Safin before losing to the Russian in five sets in the first round last year.

Starace's withdrawal yesterday, because of an ankle injury, means the British No1 will now meet Juan Pablo Brzezicki, an Argentinian who has never played a match on the mainline ATP Tour, let alone a Grand Slam.

The 23-year-old Brzezicki, who has gained a world ranking of 147 competing on the Challenger circuit, is elevated to the main draw as a lucky loser, having been defeated in the final round of qualifying by Jarkko Nieminen, of Finland. Henman, the seventh seed, is projected to play Roger Federer, the world No 1, in the quarter-finals, although the consensus is that Federer will advance to duel with the Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals. By winning the tournament, Federer would become only the sixth man in history to win all four Grand Slam titles - and would equal the feat of Andre Agassi, the only man to have won them all since the US Open and Australian Open switched from grass to concrete courts. Federer, unbeaten at Wimbledon for the past two years and the winner of three of the four Grand Slam singles titles last year, has a strange record at Roland Garros, He has only won one match in five on the Centre Court here. That was last year, when Federer defeated Nicolas Kiefer, of Germany, en route to losing to Gustavo Kuerten in the third round.

Although players are fond of saying they do not mind which court they play on as long as the dimensions are correct, Federer has found the periphery of Court Philippe Chatrier too big for his liking.

After losing last year to Kuerten, the Brazilian three-times champion, Federer joked that he ought to practise on the court every week. This time he has done the next best thing, working on Court Chatrier for the past six days.

"I'm confident I can do it," Federer said. "If I won't ever do it, this will only show at the end of my career. You can't just expect to win them all right away. You have to be a little patient."

Anastasia Myskina, who last year here became the first Russian to win a women's Grand Slam singles title, yesterday explained why she has barely been able to keep a ball in play this season. "My mum has a serious problem with her health," she said. "I've been dealing with this for the past four months.

"It's a pretty hard time, but I'm a professional tennis player, so I have to play no matter what. I'm going to try to do my best," added Myskina, who shares an apartment in Moscow with her mother, Galina.

Kim Clijsters arrived in the city of the Can-Can ready to ignore a doctor's warning not to do the splits. The Belgian former world No 1 was a doubtful starter after damaging her right knee doing the splits during a tournament in Berlin.