Henman hires former coach to McEnroe

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The Independent Online

Tim Henman will prepare for next month's United States Open with the guidance of Larry Stefanki, an American coach who numbers three former world No 1s, John McEnroe, Marcelo Rios and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, among his past clients.

The British No 1, who has not advanced beyond the fourth round in seven previous visits to Flushing Meadows, will review the partnership with Stefanki after the US Open, which ends on 9 September, three days after Henman marks his 27th birthday.

They are due to start work next Monday ­ Stefanki's 44th birthday ­ before the hard-court Masters Series tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati en route to the US Open.

Henman, who has been without a coach since splitting from David Felgate, from Essex, in April, negotiated his own way through the European clay-court circuit and the British grass-court season, which culminated in his defeat by Goran Ivanisevic in the Wimbledon semi-finals. He is ranked No 8 in the world.

After parting from Felgate, with whom he worked for nearly nine years and won seven ATP Tour titles, Henman was adamant that he would appoint a new coach when he found the right person. "It will be somebody to do the job full-time and somebody to do the job properly," he said. "There's no problem not having a coach for a period of time, but this game's hard enough without trying to do it on your own."

McEnroe, who, as a boy, was coached by Hopman, did not have travelling coach for the ma-jority of his career. He preferring to consult Tony Palafox, a former Hopman partner, by telephone when he had a technical problem with his game. McEnroe was also a regular visitor to Palafox's tennis centre in New York. Later in his career, however, when McEnroe became obsessed with the power generated by younger challengers, he hired Stefanki on a full-time basis.

As a player, Stefanki's highest ATP ranking was No 35, achieved after winning a title in La Quinta (now Indian Wells), California, in February 1985. He believes discipline and hard work are essential in fostering natural ability, and may find Henman a more equable client than either Rios or Kafelnikov, players of proven ability but obdurate personality.

Henman, although on the higher side of middle age as a tennis player, points out that he was a late developer ­ "I didn't have a tour ranking when I was 18" ­ and considers that he has several years in which to learn and improve.

"I've enjoyed the independence, if you like, and working a few things out for myself," he says. "[But] it's difficult sometimes to notice something from within. It's sometimes easier to have a person looking from the outside into the match situation."

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