Henman upbeat after curse of Tursunov strikes again

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The Independent Online

When you are ranked No 71 in the world you always need the luck of the draw. Tim Henman will be unseeded at Wimbledon later this month and could face the likes of Roger Federer or Andy Roddick in the first round. Even worse, he might be drawn against Dmitry Tursunov.

Henman must be sick of the sight of the 23-year-old Russian, who beat him 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 here in Paris yesterday in the second round of the French Open, thereby ending British interest in the singles. Tursunov has knocked Henman out of three of the last four Grand Slam tournaments, having also beaten him in five sets at Wimbledon last summer and in four sets in Australia.

Nevertheless, Henman had good reason to be encouraged. The match had been halted with the world No 34 leading by two sets at 9pm the previous night and when he broke in the fifth game of the third it seemed that Tiger Tim would be going home without even showing his claws. He broke back immediately, however, and took the set when he successfully chipped-and-charged twice as Tursunov served at 4-5 and 30-30.

Henman's tail was up now and Tursunov struggled to cope as the Briton cleverly varied the pace of his shots. Crucially, however, he failed to take any of nine break points when leading 3-2 in the fourth set. In particular, a simple overhead which he netted will be hard to put out of his mind. Tursunov held on, broke serve at the first opportunity in the next game and served out to take the match.

"I felt like I was playing some good tennis today and put him under a bit more pressure, which he doesn't like," Henman said. "I don't think I played too badly in the conditions last night, but when it's that cold and heavy I think the odds are against me."

Henman described the previous night as "a shambles". He was unhappy that the tournament supervisor could offer no set criteria - other than "our experience" - for deciding whether the light was good enough. Henman had pointed out that when play was called off the light was better than it had been for some time.

The British No 3 felt frustrated and disappointed by the result but added: "A big part of me is very confident about the way I've been playing and moving on the court. My movement, strength and enjoyment are probably as good as they've been in the last three or four years and that's a big motivating factor.

"Of course I'd like the results to improve, but I don't really have any doubts that they will, because I'm playing good tennis. It didn't go my way today. It's difficult in those conditions against that type of player, bit I was nearly able to pull it off and I feel very optimistic about things. Provided my health stays as it is I know that, with my ability, the results will come."

Andy Murray successfully came through a doubles match just 48 hours after a back injury cost him the chance of victory in the singles against Gael Monfils. Murray partnered his fellow Briton, James Auckland, to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over the Australians Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr.

Murray said he had not wanted to let Auckland down by withdrawing from the doubles. He said he was confident he would not be doing any further damage to his back, though he had to play well within himself. The Britons now meet the Bryan brothers, the world's top-ranked doubles pair.

On another cold and rain-interrupted day - "It's not bad for the winter," Amelie Mauresmo said - Novak Djokovic provided one of the biggest upsets when he beat Fernando Gonzalez, the No 9 seed, 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1. Marcos Baghdatis, the No 19 seed and this year's beaten Australian Open finalist, lost in five sets to France's Julien Benneteau.

Justine Henin-Hardenne and Anastasia Myskina, the last two winners of the women's singles here, both progressed with straight-sets victories, over Anastasiya Yakimova and Melinda Czink respectively. After her match, the crowd sang to celebrate Henin-Hardenne's 24th birthday.

Brits in Paris How they fared

Greg Rusedski

First round: Britain's No 1 lost to Paul Capdeville (Chile) 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-7.

Tim Henman

First round: Britain's No 3 beat Kenneth Carlsen (Den) 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Second round: Lost to Dmitry Tursunov (Rus) 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 4-6.

Andy Murray

First round: Britain's No 2, hampered by a back injury, lost to Gaël Monfils (Fr) 6-4, 6-7, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1.