Henman to focus on service skills ahead of Melbourne

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Tim Henman remains confident that he can make an impact at next week's Australian Open in Melbourne despite a mixed start to the year at the ExxonMobil Open in Doha.

The British No 1 began brightly with a first-round win over the third seed, Richard Gasquet, but was then beaten in straight sets by Tommy Haas. The major plus point for Henman, though, was proving he is fit for action and he is hoping to step up another level in Melbourne, with the Open starting on 16 January.

"I think there were enough good things to come out of my first match against Gasquet for me to feel good about the work I've put in towards the end of last year and the beginning of this one," the 31-year-old said.

"Physically, I feel strong, and I'll continue with my off-court work this week as staying healthy is my first priority. If I can do that I think I still have a lot of good tennis left in me.

"What I need to do is to continue to give myself the chance to prove it against the best players in the world. The Australian Open gives me an ideal opportunity to do that which is why I'm really looking forward to it."

Henman blamed a poor service game for his loss to Haas and will spend plenty of time working on that aspect of his game in practice this week.

"I was pleased with the way I performed in the first round but there are definitely areas of my game that were poor in my second match that need some work," he added. "I didn't get enough first serves in against Haas, especially on the big points and that's the main reason I struggled.

"I'm always going to be fighting an uphill battle if I don't serve well as it's much tougher to implement my game plan. Funnily enough, I've been pretty pleased with the way I've been serving in practice, but I'll definitely have another look at it this week."

* France's Florent Serra won his second ATP Tour title with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Belgium's Xavier Malisse at the Australian Hard-court Championships in Adelaide yesterday.

* The world No 9 and top seed, the Croatian Ivan Ljubicic, beat the twice champion, Carlos Moya of Spain, 7-6, 6-2 to win the Chennai Open yesterday.

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