Henman optimistic after achievements in Paris

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The Independent Online

Tim Henman's confidence is high as he seeks a first grass court title in the Stella Artois Championship after his unexpected run at the French Open.

Tim Henman's confidence is high as he seeks a first grass court title in the Stella Artois Championship after his unexpected run at the French Open.

Henman surprised even himself by reaching the semi-finals in Paris, playing some of the best tennis of his career. It means he will have only two weeks to prepare for Wimbledon but the 29-year-old could not be in a better frame of mind.

"I'm very proud of what I achieved in Paris but now I've got to turn my attention to the grass court season," he said. "This is always one of the most enjoyable times of the year for me, playing on grass, getting to stay at home and looking forward to Wimbledon. I feel my game has really come on in the last eight months or so and I'm as confident now in my own ability as I've ever been. I believe I'm the best volleyer in the world, and I think I'm the best athlete at the net so grass courts obviously suit my game. My gameplan now is very much about playing to my strengths and committing to it."

Henman, three times a finalist at Queen's and a semi-finalist 12 months ago, added: "It's the hardest style for me to try to play on clay but I think I've done a pretty good job of it this year and my results have improved as a result. Now I'm excited about continuing that on other surfaces, particularly on the grass, and I can't wait to get out there."

Henman will have to wait until Wednesday to play his first competitive match. As one of the top eight seeds at Queen's he receives a bye into the second round where he will face either Karol Beck or Gilles Elseneer. He could meet Greg Rusedski in the quarter-finals, although Rusedski has won only two games since being cleared of any wrongdoing after a failed drugs test.

Henman is seeded to face his French Open conqueror, Guillermo Coria, again in the semi-finals, but it would be something of a surprise if the Argentinian gets that far. More realistic challengers include the top seed and defending champion, Andy Roddick, whose victory last year marked him down as a contender for Wimbledon. The 21-year-old American will not have an easy passage and could face Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan in the quarter-finals with a potential semi-final against Andre Agassi or the three-times champion Lleyton Hewitt.

Hewitt, the sixth seed, won the title three years in succession between 2000 and 2002 and will be attempting to join John McEnroe and Boris Becker as the only four-time winners. The Australian's run of 17 consecutive victories at Queen's was brought to an end in the quarter-finals last year by Sebastien Grosjean, who went on to beat Henman before losing to Roddick in the final.

Agassi, who has accepted a wild card, will face either the French teenager, Richard Gasquet, or the Russian, Igor Andreev, in the second round. Victory would be his 800th career win on the ATP circuit.

The former Wimbledon champion, Goran Ivanisevic, could face last year's beaten Wimbledon finalist, Mark Philippoussis, in the second round in what would be a repeat of their 1997 Stella Artois final which Philippoussis won in straight sets.

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