Henman needs new strategy after humiliating elimination

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Tim Henman's dismal third-round exit from the Australian Open does not augur well for his prospects in a season where he has retired from Davis Cup tennis in order to concentrate on his elusive goal of winning a Grand Slam title.

Tim Henman's dismal third-round exit from the Australian Open does not augur well for his prospects in a season where he has retired from Davis Cup tennis in order to concentrate on his elusive goal of winning a Grand Slam title.

The British No 1 was comprehensively thrashed by Nikolay Davydenko on Saturday, his 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 loss ranking among the worst defeats of his career. During a staggeringly inept match, he committed 32 unforced errors and won just 34 of 69 points at the net.

After years of labouring to progress beyond the fourth round of any Grand Slam outside Wimbledon, Henman reached the semi-finals at the French and US Opens last year. But Melbourne Park continues to be an unhappy arena for him; it is three years since he even made the final 16. Last week the No 7 seed talked about being more relaxed on court, which he believed had paid dividends and would continue to be beneficial. But the manner of his loss to the 23-year-old Russian suggests he will have to rethink his strategy once again.

His forehand let him down badly, and Davydenko was taken aback by the ease of his win. "He made so many mistakes," the No 26 seed said. "I was surprised. It was really easy to break his serve."

Plagued by a back injury before he came to Australia, Henman insisted that he had been "100 per cent" fit. The cool conditions had not suited him, he said, and Davydenko was too good. "I definitely didn't play my best, but I certainly wasn't allowed to play the way I would like to."

The match revived memories of his straight-sets defeat by Jonas Bjorkman in the fourth round here in 2002, when he was the only top seed left in the bottom half of the draw.

Asked just how bad he felt about Saturday's match, he said: "I feel totally gutted really. My expectations were obviously for a lot more. But that hasn't materialised. So you have to sort of keep trying to learn from it. But it doesn't get any easier."

Henman said he would not be deterred from returning to Melbourne and trying to overcome the jinx that has excluded him from the business end of the tournament for nine years. "I want to do better than the fourth round here," he said. "I don't think that's good enough."

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