Henman sees fresh hope for future of British game

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As Tim Henman prepared to play Sebastien Grosjean in the second round of the Paris Masters today - a key match for the Frenchman and a possible au revoir to a difficult season for the British No 1 - he spoke optimistically about the state of play at the Lawn Tennis Association.

The 29-year-old from Oxfordshire said there was a "different feel" about the men's national training department at Barons Court. "There's a direction and a real emphasis on setting standards," he said.

With court time beginning to run out for Henman and Greg Rusedski, the 30-year-old British No 2, David Felgate, Henman's former coach, who is the LTA's performance director, is determined that the search for successors will not be conducted on a road paved with hand-outs.

"In the past," Henman said, "a lot of guys who were just starting out were given a lot of funding and coaching and money to travel. But when you look at our structure, there's plenty of tournaments to play. If players don't come up to the standards being set, they are not going to be shown the door but will be told to get on with it.

"If players can reach the standards, whether it's in the rankings or in terms of their attitude and performance, then they'll certainly be helped."

Last week, the LTA relieved the 62-year-old Roger Taylor of the Davis Cup captaincy and handed it to Jeremy Bates, 41, who is also Felgate's right-hand man.

"To view the situation very positively," Henman said, "it was great fun, a great pleasure, playing under Roger. We certainly had some really good matches. We had some great wins. We had some really disappointing losses. From my point of view, Davis Cup has always been a priority. I think it's safe to say I'll play under whoever the captain is."

Today Henman hopes to continue the bright form he showed against the Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the first round when he plays Grosjean, the man who ruined his London grass court season at Queen's Club and Wimbledon. Grosjean, the seventh seed, must win to keep alive his prospects of qualifying for the eight-man Masters Cup in Houston.

Younes El Aynaoui's chances of going to Houston ended yesterday when a sore foot caused him to retire in his second-round match against his Moroccan compatriot Hicham Arazi when leading 2-1 in the third set.

Paradorn Srichaphan, of Thailand, still has a slim chance of qualifying for the Masters Cup after defeating Karol Beck, of Slovakia, 7-6, 6-3.

Almost a year ago, Mikhail Youzhny, with Boris Yeltsin in tow, was the hero of Russia on the Centre Court here at the Palais Omnisports. He recovered from a two-set deficit in the fifth set of the fifth and decisive rubber against Paul-Henri Mathieu, of France, to win the Davis Cup for Russia for the first time.

On his return yesterday, Youzhny was put on ice - well, on ice covered by a rubberised hard court on the Sonja Heini rink, which doubles as Court One - and lost his first-round match to the Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez, 7-6, 6-3.