Finn a danger for anxious Henman

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The Independent Online

Things were not exactly going swimmingly for Tim Henman, and then suddenly this Finn appeared.

Henman, the sixth seed at Wimbledon, was drawn yesterday to play the 70th-ranked Jarkko Nieminen in the opening round next week - Nieminen being the left-hander who put the hobbled Andre Agassi out of his misery in the first round at the French Open.

Normally, Nieminen would not be expected to trouble the British No 1, particularly on Henman's home turf, but the 23-year-old from Masku has added to an air of uncertainty in a draw that serves as a match-by-match caution. There is a view that the greater burden of pressure on Henman, 30, in the coming fortnight may stem from himself rather than the tennis journalists, many of whom consider that he will do well to enter the second week. Should he achieve that, he is likely to face Sebastien Grosjean, the Frenchman who caused him grief in the quarter-finals in 2003.

A fifth semi-final seems a lot to ask - given that Andy Roddick is a prospect in the quarter-finals - and only a serial optimist would dream of a final, possibly against Roger Federer.

First things first. If Henman defeats Nieminen and then takes care of Dmitry Tursunov, of Russia, or Nicolas Almagro, of Spain, there is the possibility of meeting Wayne Arthurs in round three. Arthurs was the first name that came to Henman's lips recently when we discussed Wimbledon long-shots, though he settled for Mark Philippoussis, the runner-up to Federer in 2003.

Arthurs, 34, a left-hander from Adelaide who has bases in Melbourne and Wimbledon, is a threat on grass to any top player slightly off his game. Henman has won their previous three matches.

Philippoussis will have to overcome Karol Beck, of Slovakia, to have a crack at the fifth-seeded Marat Safin or Paradorn Srichaphan.

Greg Rusedski, the unseeded British No 2, opens against Alberto Martin, of Spain. The 18-year-old Scot Andrew Murray makes his Wimbledon main draw debut against a qualifier.

The one certainty in the women's singles is that there will not be an all-Williams final. The American sisters are projected to meet in the fourth round, though Venus may struggle as she has to play Evgenia Linetskaya, of Russia, in round three.

A quarter-final between Serena Williams and Justine Henin-Hardenne, the French Open champion, could be the crux of the lower half of the draw, with the winner in line to play Maria Sharapova, the defending champion, in the semi-finals. Elena Baltacha, the British No 1, plays a qualifier in the opening round.