Henman left with nothing but a broken racket

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The Independent Online

Tiger Tim? It was more a case of Tantrum Tim here yesterday as the British No 1 lost 6-4, 6-4 to Thomas Johansson after a ragged display in the quarter-finals of the Stella Artois Championships.

Tim Henman was so disgusted with his play that he broke one of his rackets when he stamped on it during the changeover after the opening game of the second set. The brief show of passion was in stark contrast to the game he had just played, Johansson having broken serve to love after Henman had double-faulted, put a meek forehand into the net, hit a smash well out and played a poor serve and volley.

Wimbledon is still nine days away, but on this evidence Henman has much work to do. In particular - and this will surprise those who regard him as one of the world's best exponents of the grass-court game - Henman feels he needs to think more clearly about his tactics on the surface.

Henman's ground strokes looked tentative, his serve rarely troubled Johansson and he volleyed inconsistently. Johansson picked him off at the net with increasing regularity as his serve-and-volley game became predictable and his mistakes multiplied. The 30-year-old Swede, ranked 11 places behind Henman at No 20, is at ease on grass - he has won tournaments on the surface at Nottingham and Halle - and has a good all-round game, but he has only a moderate serve and rarely dominates the net.

The Briton said he knew as soon as he came off court that his tactics had been wrong. "I was disappointed with my performance and I didn't feel I gave myself an opportunity to put some pressure on him," Henman said.

"I wasn't as decisive on grass as I have been on other surfaces. Perhaps it's because we play so much more indoors or on hard or clay courts. I think I need to be a bit more selective. I didn't make as many first serves and that has a knock-on effect. Maybe sometimes I should come in on the second or third ball. I don't use different options on grass as well as I do on other surfaces."

What of the racket-breaking tantrum? "I was frustrated," Henman said with a shrug.

"Nobody got hurt."

After needing three sets to win both his previous matches here - against Robby Ginepri (ranked No 73 in the world) and Chris Guccione (188) - Henman made so many errors that Johansson barely had to break sweat.

Just 24 hours earlier the Swede had been pushed to the limit by 18-year-old Andrew Murray, who had been two points from victory until his chances were scuppered by injury. It may be too early to talk about a changing of the guard in British tennis, but the contrast between the two performances was clear.

Even the public seemed less enthused by Henman than they had been by Murray the previous day, when the stands were full and the first-clenching Scot roared the crowd into vocal support. There were a number of empty seats and the first shouts of "Come on Tim!" were not heard until late in the first set.

Henman dropped his serve in the third game after two double faults and in the seventh after a catalogue of errors. He had broken back in between after a poor game by Johansson, but in the Swede's three other service games in the first set Henman won just four points. The early break proved decisive in the second set, Henman subsequently failing to force a single break point on Johansson's serve.

In today's semi-finals Johansson meets the second seed Andy Roddick, who accounted for Sebastian Grosjean for the third year in succession here. The American, who beat Grosjean in the 2003 and 2004 finals, won 6-4, 7-6. The second set was tight and there was only one break of serve in the tie-break, Roddick winning the 10th point with an excellent backhand winner down the line.

The way looks clear for a hat-trick of Roddick victories after Lleyton Hewitt, the top seed, lost to Ivo Karlovic, the big-serving 6ft 10in Croatian who shocked the Australian in the first round at Wimbledon two years ago. Hewitt, playing his first tournament after three months out with injury, lost 7-6, 6-3. Karlovic now meets Radek Stepanek, of the Czech Republic, who beat the 18-year-old Frenchman, Richard Gasquet, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.