Henman puts back injury behind him to progress - Tennis - Sport - The Independent

Henman puts back injury behind him to progress

Survival of the fittest would be one way to describe Tim Henman's second-round win against Jérôme Golmard, of France, at the US Open yesterday. Except Golmard is rarely fit.

Survival of the fittest would be one way to describe Tim Henman's second-round win against Jérôme Golmard, of France, at the US Open yesterday. Except Golmard is rarely fit.

Henman may have come into the tournament with a dodgy lower back, but Golmard, a qualifier, clearly out-winced him for the two hours and 45 minutes it took the British No 1 to win, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6.

Known in France as the player who has everything - bad back, bad shoulder, bad elbow, bad knee - the 30-year-old Golmard has retired hurt during matches 11 times in his career. At least this time he stayed on his feet to the end and gave the fifth-seeded Henman plenty to worry about on Grandstand Court.

Henman, having worked his way through five sets against Ivo Karlovic, the giant Croatian, in the first round, and nursed his back for the challenge of Golmard, next plays Michal Tabara, a Czech qualifier, who wore down Mardy Fish, America's silver medalist in Athens, 6-3, 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

It was surprising that Henman took so long to overcome Golmard, given the way the match started. The Oxfordshire man broke for 2-1 in the opening set, with a backhand volley to the corner of the court, and two aces helped him hold for 3-1.

Golmard, looking somewhat bemused at the speed with which events were turning in his opponent's favour, double-faulted twice in the seventh game to lose his serve a second time, and Henman served out the set after 26 minutes.

A sense of anticipation among Henman's supporters after he broke for 2-1 in the second set with a service return waned when Golmard immediately broke back, Henman hitting a backhand long.

The Frenchman saved a break point at 2-2, but Henman continued to attack and converted an opportunity at 4-4, his solid drive causing the incoming Golmard to net a backhand volley from close range. Henman was taken to deuce when serving at 5-4, but an ace and an unreturnable serve gave him the set with the match 65 minutes old.

Henman also dominated the opening games of the third set, but was unable to convert a break point at 1-1 and two more at 2-2. Golmard may have been let down by inconsistency, but there were moments when he produced breathtaking shots, and the time had come for him to make more of them count.

He broke for 4-2, and though Henman prevented him from serving out the set at 5-3, the Briton lost his serve again at 5-4, beaten on set point by a Golmard forehand down the line that clipped the net cord en route.

The action switched next to the healing fingers of Bill Norris, the ATP trainer, who was called by Golmard to massage his lower back. Norris returned to check on Golmard's condition - but by this time the Frenchman was leading, 3-0, in the fourth set.

Having saved a break point in the opening game, Golmard out-manoeuvred his opponent in the second, Henman hitting a backhand volley wide on break point. Golmard promptly held to love, with two aces.

Henman broke back to love at 3-1, Golmard netting a backhand, and the set went with serve to the tie-break. Henman managed a sprint finish, winning the shoot-out, 7-1.

Andre Agassi, the American sixth seed, was the beneficiary of a retirement by Florian Mayer, of Germany, after the opening game of the fourth set of their second-round match.

Both French Open singles champions were defeated. Gaston Gaudio lost to Thomas Johansson, of Sweden, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, and Anastasia Myskina was beaten 7-6, 6-3, by her Russian compatriot Anna Chakvetadze, a qualifier.

Myskina was the first Russian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title, and her success rubbed off on Maria Sharapova, who took the Wimbledon crown.

Justine Henin-Hardenne, the defending champion, was in wayward form yesterday against Tzipora Obziler, of Israel, at 31 the oldest player in the women's singles. Broken when serving for the second set at 5-4, Henin lost the set and was also broken when leading 4-1 in the final set. She prevailed 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 to enter the third round.

The progress of Lindsay Davenport to the third round was problem-free until the American fifth seed came to serve out her match against Arantxa Parra Santonja, of Spain, at 5-0 in the second set. Davenport double-faulted twice in losing serve and then had to save two break points in the final game before winning, 6-4, 6-2.

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