Henman given Wimbledon boost

Tim Henman goes into today's Wimbledon draw knowing that he cannot meet any of the top four seeds until the quarter-finals. The British No 1 has been seeded sixth - three spots above his world ranking - thanks to his record of four semi-finals at the All England Club.

Henman, a quarter-finalist for the past two years, is not in his best form. The 30-year-old from Oxfordshire lost to Thomas Johansson, of Sweden, in the quarter-finals of the Stella Artois Championships at London's Queen's Club last week and lost in the second round of the French Open by Peru's Luis Horna.

Roger Federer, aiming for a hat-trick of Wimbledon men's singles titles, is the top seed, with Andy Roddick, whom the Swiss master defeated in last year's final, seeded No 2.

Roddick, who last week won the Queen's title for the third year in a row, is seeded ahead of Lleyton Hewitt, of Australia, the world No 2, who won Wimbledon in 2002. So, while Roddick cannot meet Federer until the final, Hewitt could play him in the semi-finals.

Rafael Nadal, the 19-year-old Spaniard who defeated Federer in the French Open semi-finals, is seeded fourth. If the Majorcan can adjust his hard-driving game to the lawns, he is another possible semi-final opponent for the champion.

Sébastien Grosjean, a semi-finalist in 2003 and 2004, is seeded ninth, in spite of a world rank of 26.

The women's singles has been seeded according to the world rankings, with Lindsay Davenport, the 1999 champion, at No 1, and Maria Sharapova, the defending champion No 2. The Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, who dominated the tournament for four years from 2000, are seeded fourth and 14th respectively. Justine Henin-Hardenne, the French Open champion, is seeded seventh.

The third-seeded Amélie Mauresmo, of France, lost embarrassingly at Eastbourne yesterday in her first match on grass since last year's Wimbledon semi-final against Serena Williams.

Having arrived at the tournament seeking refuge after another poor performance on clay at the French Open, and given a bye in the first round, the top-seeded Mauresmo was defeated by an 18-year-old Russian qualifier, Vera Douchevina, 6-4, 6-4, ranked 54th.

"I played a very bad match," Mauresmo said. "She was much better than me. I could not find my rhythm. It was the sort of things that happens maybe twice a year, and this was one of those days."

Svetlana Kuznetsova, the defending champion at Eastbourne and the fifth seed for Wimbledon, narrowly avoided losing to her Russian compatriot Anna Chakvetadze, ranked 43rd.

The 18-year-old Chakvetadze, who led 5-3 in the deciding set, was unable to hold her nerve. Kuznetsova, the US Open champion, prevailed, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6, taking the shoot-out 7-5.

"Everything was against me," Kuznetsova said. "Anna has played for two weeks on grass, and it was my first match. I have just practised for two days on grass courts. I ended up winning because I started to fight even though my tennis did not work out for me."

Alicia Molik, of Australia, ranked No 9, withdrew from both Eastbourne and Wimbledon yesterday because of an inner-ear infection.

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