Henman is forced to dig deep to beat unknown

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The Independent Online

An off-colour Tim Henman came through a testing opening match of the Masters Series event in Hamburg to overcome the unfancied outsider Andreas Seppi 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.

An off-colour Tim Henman came through a testing opening match of the Masters Series event in Hamburg to overcome the unfancied outsider Andreas Seppi 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.

Britain's No 1, and fifth seed in Germany, struggled to get out of second gear against an opponent ranked 164th in the world, but eventually battled through despite an alarming slump in the second set.

The 29-year-old was not granted the comfort of Hamburg's roof-covered centre court and had to play on an outside court under persistent drizzle. "The conditions were really difficult but I found a way to play some pretty good tennis in the end," he said. "It was a tough challenge mentally and I'm glad it's over."

Seppi raced into a 3-0 lead in quick time but a much improved service display got Henman back into the set only for him to squander three break points in the next game to go 4-1 down. He immediately called for an injury time-out after reporting he felt unwell but after a brief conversation with the trainer he continued and produced a service game to love.

Another break point went begging against the Seppi serve when Henman drove a cross-court forehand into the net and he paid for the error as his opponent claimed a 5-2 lead. The trainer returned at the changeover to furnish Henman with an energy drink and it perked the Englishman up as he recovered his serve to claim the eighth game of the set.

Seppi threw away two set points on his serve and although Henman missed a stop-volley at the net to bring the score back to deuce he eventually broke the Italian to make it 5-4.

A virtually flawless service game pulled Henman level and although he missed four break points in the next, three double-faults by Seppi handed the game to his opponent. Henman then served out for the set, which had looked beyond him for most of the first hour.

Seppi hit back in the second set with a carbon copy of the first, racing into a 3-0 lead with a service break before Henman finally held his serve in the fourth. The Italian qualifier then added another two games as Henman began to fade and a service game to love clinched the second set 6-1.

The first game of the final set went with Henman's serve and the successful conversion of three break points and another strong service showing put him 3-0 up. Seppi pulled one back on his serve and Henman could rescue himself from only three of four break points in the next game as the Italian cut the deficit to a single game.

However, an unforced forehand into the net cost Seppi dear as it handed Henman a service break to go 4-2 ahead and encouraged him to attack in his next service game, which he did with success to put him within touching distance of the second round.

Two unforced errors put Henman within a point of victory but a backhand over the baseline brought Seppi back into it and he eventually made it 5-3.

Henman then successfully served for the match and clinched a place in the second round to face the world No 13 Andrei Pavel.

In Rome, the Italian wildcard Maria Elena Camerin upset Jelena Dokic 7-5, 7-5 in the opening round of the Rome Masters. Camerin, 78th in the world, took advantage of a patchy display from the former champion.

Wayward groundstrokes allowed Camerin to break Dokic to love and then serve out for the first set. In the second, Dokic relinquished a 4-1 lead but saved four match points with heavy hitting to level at 5-5. Another casual service game handed the advantage back to the Italian, who converted her seventh match point when Dokic netted a forehand.