Henman wins to cancel out Parmar's loss

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The Independent Online

Tim Henman put Britain back on track in their Davis Cup Euro-African Zone tie against Luxembourg here yesterday after Arvind Parmar had been unable to make amends for his calamity against Ecuador that saw the team relegated four years ago.

Britain have had a spell back in the World Group - without winning a tie - since then, but Parmar was unable to erase memories of his collapse after leading the 17-year-old Giovanni Lapentti by two sets to love in the deciding rubber at Wimbledon in 2000.

Selected ahead of Greg Rusedski by Britain's new captain, Jeremy Bates, to play the opening singles match against Gilles Muller, the Luxembourg No 1, Parmar was defeated in five sets in his second live singles rubber, just as he had been in his first against Ecuador. Thankfully, Parmar lost in the opening match this time rather than the decider, and Henman's win against Gilles Kremer, the Luxembourg No 2 - a contest between the world No 8 and the world No 888 - means Bates' gamble can still work.

Henman's victory, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2, was smooth, aside from his having to save six break points in the fourth game of the third set. The captain's plan was to avoid asking Rusedski to play three matches in three days in his first event after his drugs controversy and at the same time give Parmar an opportunity to redeem himself.

Rusedski may now find himself playing two matches: today's doubles, partnering Henman against Muller and Mike Scheidweiler, and in tomorrow's concluding singles rubber against Kremer. Parmar injured his left leg in the fourth set against Muller, and, even if he is fit to play tomorrow, Bates still has the option of making a change.

The disappointing part of Parmar's defeat, 4-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 after three hours and 17 minutes, was that he seemed to have the measure of Muller, a 20-year-old former junior world No 1, whose serving was erratic and volleying wayward, particularly when under pressure.

"I knew from playing him before that mentally he's a little bit weak and flakey," Parmar said, "but if he gets hot he can streamroller you." The left-handed Muller seldom looked hot, but his confidence was obviously fragile. Fortunately for him, Parmar's self-belief was also like the tide. The Briton served well, and hit 18 aces to Muller's 15. But Muller's 10 double-faults attest to his shakyness, and Parmar was not short of opportunities.

Parmar sensed injustice after Mullar appeared to double-fault at 15-30 in the second game of the fourth set, but the linesman indicated that his view was blocked as the second serve landed. "It was clearly out," Parmar said, "but I recovered well after that point and still got a break point I didn't convert."

After taking a time-out for treatment to his left thigh before the start of the sixth game of the fourth set, Parmar won only one of the next seven games. "I twisted my ankle and fell awkwardly and hurt my leg," he said. "It bothered me when I landed on it after serving, but I still managed to serve pretty well." Although there were less than 900 fans around the court, lots of noise was generated. John Crowther, the chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association, played his part, waving his football rattle in unison with a group from the British Association of Tennis Supporters.

Parmar did his best to respond, but was broken in the first game of the final set. He still had chances when Muller served for the match at 5-4 and slumped to 0-40. He survived, Parmar failing to convert any of four break points. "You really have to go on one of them at least," Parmar said, "but I got a little excited with my forehand going for one, and should have tried to return deeper into the court on the others."

Asked if thoughts of Lapentti had crossed his mind, Parmar said: "It was so long ago I can barely remember what happened in the match, only the result. I've moved on from that. Today I gave everything I had. It wasn't to be. I think my attitude was good. I got myself in a winning position. I didn't panic at any point. It would have been nice if I had won, but I think I've shown I can play Davis Cup." Nonetheless, he has yet to win a five-set match of any description.

Bates was sympathetic. "I'm disappointed for Arvind, not for the team," he said, "because I thought he played a great match and didn't have that little bit of luck you need."