Exhausted Henman stumbles out

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The only positive Tim Henman could take from his defeat in the third round at the Madrid Masters yesterday was that his racket did not break. He flung it to the ground in anger after his dodgy forehand and the net cord had conspired to cost him the penultimate point.

The only positive Tim Henman could take from his defeat in the third round at the Madrid Masters yesterday was that his racket did not break. He flung it to the ground in anger after his dodgy forehand and the net cord had conspired to cost him the penultimate point.

Henman's racket was sturdier than its owner, who proved to be as debilitated as his ragged play had suggested he was in losing to Ivan Ljubicic, of Croatia, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. The 30-year-old British No 1 said he was waiting for the result of a blood test taken the previous night to try to trace the reason why his energy had suddenly run dry in his second match after a 24-day break.

"I feel similar to the way I did at the French Open," Henman said. "After four or five games I feel tired. I feel fine from the waist up. I don't feel ill. I just don't have any energy."

Given the nandrolone controversy earlier this year, Henman was asked if the scepticism surrounding vitamin supplements inhibited players from using them. "In the past, if you were not feeling your best, you probably would have taken a different type of vitamin to boost your immune system. The only thing I've been able to take is vitamin C. How much that helps, I don't know."

Henman expressed the hope that his body, having taken him to the semi-finals at Roland Garros in the best of five-sets matches on slow clay, would be able to generate the stamina needed to cope with the best of three-sets contests indoors in Basle next week and for the defence of his Paris Masters title the week after.

Otherwise Henman may not have enough points to qualify for the eight-man Masters Cup in Houston next month, which would be an anti-climax to a year in which he has reached the last four at both the French Open and the US Open. With four tickets to Houston still available, the sixth-placed Henman's rivals, such as Andre Agassi, who dispatched his American compatriot Vince Spadea last night, 6-1, 6-3, to reach the quarter-finals, have a chance to raid the booking office.

It was reassuring, in a perverse way, to hear an excuse for Henman's poor display in dealing with Ljubicic's potent serve and deep, attacking ground-strokes, particularly after edging the second set. Only Henman's body language had been articulate on the court. His post-match analysis was frank.

"I felt I struggled to control the ball yesterday [against Albert Costa]. I was even worse today," he said. "My movement was poor, so I never felt I was in the right position to hit a lot of shots. I was mishitting the ball, hitting them all over the place. On my forehand, which I hit pretty flat, there's not a lot of margin for error. It's highlighted in these conditions, at a bit of altitude."

The tournament, which had started without the services of the world's top four players, and rapidly saw all but Tommy Robredo of the home hopes tumble (Robredo plays Agassi), lost the top-seeded Henman yesterday before siesta time.

Comments