Although nothing could make amends for Tim Henman's loss to Sebastien Grosjean in the quarter-finals on the Wimbledon grass in July, the British No 1 victory, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, on the Frenchman's "home turf" last night was as sweet as vacherin.
That is not a spiteful judgement based on the fact that Henman's win in the second round of the Paris Masters ended the seventh-seeded Grosjean's chances of qualifying for the Masters Cup in Houston. It is a salute to Henman's resilience as he ensured that his supporters would have at least one more hurrah before his season of pain and disappointment comes to a close here.
Henman's first-round win against the Russian, Nikolay Davydenko, emphatic though it was, merely extended his opponent's poor run to eight matches. Against Grosjean on the Centre Court at the Palais Omnisports, the 31-ranked Henman had to contend with a man in form backed by 9,000 roaring locals.
In the opening set, it seemed that the amalgam of Grosjean's solid serve, superior groundstrokes and the crowd would cow Henman into submission. Although the 29-year-old from Oxfordshire managed to recover from 0-2 to 2-2, he was unable to push his opponent's serve beyond 0-30 in the fifth game and suffered by being broken for 2-4.
Henman continued to probe Grosjean's serve unconvincingly in the second set, taking the Frenchman to 0-30 in the second and sixth games but being unable to convert either of two break points after Grosjean double-faulted at 3-4. Indeed, Henman had to save a break point after double-faulting at 4-4 before making his pressure on Grosjean's serve count in the 10th game.
That did not make for a comfortable final set. Henman, broken in the opening game, responded immediately and went on to break a second time, for 4-2. If that was supposed to be a cushion, it proved to be one of the whoopee variety.
Grosjean broke back in the next game and, at 4-4, the match was wide open. Henman came within three points of victory with Grosjean serving at 4-5, and a tie-break seemed to be looming as the Frenchman again served to stay in the match at 5-6.
It was then that Henman struck with full force, driving his opponent on to the back foot, breaking to love to win after two hours 21 minutes, and leaving the Frenchman close to tears.
"It was great to beat Grosjean on his home patch," Henman said. "There was an element of revenge. But I would much rather have won one of those matches [we had] at Queen's and Wimbledon."
He added: "I feel like my game is moving in the right direction. It was a great atmosphere out there. I certainly haven't played many good matches here. It was a lot of fun. It's a good confidence-booster, irrespective of how I do in rest of the tournament."
Henman will tonight play Gustavo Kuerten, of Brazil, who saved five match points in defeating Mark Philippoussis in three sets, ending the Australian's hopes of Houston.
David Nalbandian was forced to withdraw from the second round yesterday because of an injury to his left wrist, which may need surgery. Nalbandian is now uncertain whether he will qualify for the Masters Cup or, if he does, whether a week's rest will enable him to compete with the seven other contenders in Houston on 8 November.
After hitting a few balls yesterday, Nalbandian found that the pain from tendinitis in his wrist had not improved since his withdrawal from last Sunday's final in Basle.Reuse content