Confident Henman hits top gear to beat Martin

Third-seed Ferrero next in line for British No 1 as return to form gains momentum following shoulder surgery
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The Independent Online

Juan Carlos Ferrero, the Spanish runner-up at last year's French Open and the third seed this time, may be waiting, thoroughly rested, for Tim Henman to step on to his clay-court web in the third round tomorrow, but the British No 1 has already done himself proud at Roland Garros.

Yesterday, playing only his 13th match of the year - but the 100th Grand Slam singles contest of his career - Henman defeated the American Todd Martin, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1, 7-5. It was Henman's sixth win since recovering from shoulder surgery, and he was swinging his racket with encouraging confidence.

Henman had won his previous three matches against the 32-year-old Martin to lead their head-to-head, 4-3, but this was their first meeting on clay. Martin, unlike Henman, has a clay-court title on his record, from Barcelona in 1998.

After complimenting the organisers on the standard of the courts, Martin said: "There's some consolation in losing to a friend and having a competitive, well-spirited match, but there's no true consolation for losing. The courts today require all the savvy, athletic ability and stamina that we have."

Returning to Court Three, where the speed gun tends to exaggerate, Henman was credited with a 350mph delivery in his opening serving game yesterday, which was pedestrian compared to the 583mph blip of technology when he played Vladimir Voltchkov, of Belarus, on Tuesday, but still caused mirth on both sides of the net.

Henman and Martin know and respect each other, and the match was played in a good spirit laced with a competitive edge. There were four breaks of serve en route to the first set tie-break. Henman saved a set point at 4-5, 30-40, with a crisp forehand down the line, but was then unable to convert any of three break points in the next game.

When the shoot-out arrived, after an hour, Henman swept to a 6-1 lead, only for Martin to whittle away four of the set points. Henman tucked away the fifth opportunity with an off-forehand to the sideline for 7-5.

After losing his serve to love in the first game of the second set, he showed his frustration by belting a ball against the backstop. When some of the crowd booed, Henman waved hands, palms down, as if to suggest that everyone should calm down. They did, and Henman went on to break back to 4-4.

Henman was unable to build on that, and there was a contentious moment when, with Martin serving at 6-5, 30-30, Henman questioned a line call against him to no avail. This time the spectators voiced their agreement with Henman.

Rather than allow the loss of the set to bother him, Henman responded with the most impressive spell of tennis of his disrupted season, upping his first serve percentage and controlling so many of the points that Martin could only salvage one game in the third set.

Martin, down two sets to one, still had more to offer. He regained his rhythm and attacked Henman, opened a 4-1 lead in the fourth set. Henman battled back to 4-4, and then broke for 6-5 with a classical backhand pass, before serving out the match out with his ninth ace after three hours 27 minutes.

Ferrero was already back at his hotel, having had an easy day. He was leading Nicolas Massu, 6-2, 3-0, when the Chilean retired because of an ankle injury. Martin, asked if he thought Henman could beat the Spaniard, said: "Certainly, if he serves well and takes Juan Carlos out of his game."

Henman has played Ferrero only once, in 1999, defeating him, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 on an indoor carpet court in the first round of the Paris Masters.

Lleyton Hewitt, the Wimbledon champion and top seed, had a torrid afternoon on Philippe Chatrier Court, cursing his way to a second-round win against Nikolay Davydenko, the Russian who eliminated Britain's Greg Rusedski in the first round.

The 22-year-old Australian's verbals were largely aimed at himself, which was as well, because they could be heard around the ground. The umpire, Lars Graff, was as patient as possible with Hewitt, letting pass at least one audible obscenity in the second set. Nor did Graff react after Hewitt broke his racket. But when Hewitt effed again a few points later, he was given a code violation.

This curbed Hewitt's tongue to a degree, and after losing the set he settled into the duel, going on to win, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6. Davydenko was a more dangerous presence than his 112 unforced errors would suggest. He broke Hewitt nine times - but lost his own serve 11 times.

"I didn't think I came close to another code violation," Hewitt said. "I get a little bit heated out there and say stuff that you regret saying afterwards. I don't think it affects my tennis, though."

There was a niggle shortly before the conclusion of the French qualifier Nicolas Coutelot's five-set win against the eighth-seeded David Nalbandian, of Argentina, the runner-up to Hewitt at Wimbledon last year. Coutelot complained that Nalbandian was time-wasting when he changed his racket, but the players made their peace before leaving the court.

In the women's singles, Venus Williams, the third seed, was extended by Samantha Reeves, an American compatriot who got into the main draw as a "lucky loser". Reeves managed to level the match, but could not deny the older Williams sibling a third-round place, Venus winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

Jelena Dokic, of Yugoslavia, the 10th seed, was eliminated by Tina Pisnik, of Slovakia, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Dokic reacted strongly to suggestions that she could have fought harder after losing the second set. "I was trying, but the balls weren't going in," Dokic said. "Maybe I've just reached a stage where things are not going well. I have to be prepared to get through that.