Henman's training pays off against Gasquet
Tuesday 03 January 2006
The confidence Tim Henman gained from the hard work he put into his training for the new season showed to good effect yesterday when the British No 1 won his opening match of the year at the Qatar Open in Doha.
The 31-year-old from Oxfordshire defeated the French youngster Richard Gasquet, 6-4, 6-4.
Gasquet, the 19-year-old who inflicted a rare defeat on Roger Federer, the world No 1, at the Monte Carlo Masters last year, is ranked 14 places above Henman, at No 20 in the world, but was unable to capitalise on his spectacular backhand as much as usual. Henman required six break points in the fifth game to break Gasquet in the opening set, finishing with his first ace.
Although Gasquet competed well in the second set, which was memorable for some excellent tennis on both sides, he was broken decisively for 4-3.
Henman did not have the most comfortable of finishes, however. He had to save a break point at 4-3 and two more when serving for the match at 5-4. Eventually Henman prevailed on his third match point after delivering his second ace.
Having suffered so much from back problems last year, Henman was determined to make the most of the new campaign - chiefly to be injury free, if possible. His fitness was evident yesterday, and his hope is that he will be able to avoid the pain that made last season so difficult - so hard, in fact, that at one point he said he no longer enjoyed playing.
Andy Murray, the 18-year-old British No 3, was due to start his second year on the ATP Tour last night with a first-round match against Paolo Lorenzi, an Italian qualifier, at the Adelaide International tournament.
Lorenzi, ranked No 14 in his own country and 252nd in the world, defeated Britain's Jamie Delgado, ranked five places above him, 6-2, 6-1, in the final round of qualifying.
Murray had not previously played the 24-year-old from Rome. Waiting in the second round for the winner is the Czech Tomas Berdych, who was beaten by Murray in Basle before going on to triumph at the Paris Masters. Berdych defeated Agustin Calleri, of Argentina in the opening round, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4.
Martina Hingis lost her serve in the opening game of her comeback following a three-year absence from the WTA Tour, but immediately broke back. "After that, I started breathing," she said.
The 25-year-old Swiss former world No 1 defeated Maria Vento-Kabchi, 6-2, 6-1, in the first round at the Australian Hardcourt Championships at the Royal Pines resort on the Gold Coast, and next plays the seventh-seeded Klara Koukalova, of the Czech Republic.
Having cleared her first hurdle against the 31-year-old Venezuelan yesterday, Hingis relaxed by partnering the French teenager Tatiana Golovin in the doubles.
"I was a little nervous," admitted Hingis, who won five Grand Slam singles titles before retiring in 2002 after a series of foot and ankle injuries.
"I knew I could play better than that. It was just a matter of time and getting the first point and the first game.
"The score says it all. Under the circumstances, in the heat, and not having played for three years, I'd [give myself] an eight out of 10.
"I get another opportunity to play another match and that feels great already. All these expectations I've put on myself, they are gone right now."
Hingis, who hit one ace against Vento-Kabchi, knows that her serve, a weakness throughout her career, will be put under pressure.
"You have to have a high percentage of first serves, otherwise these girls today are going to kill you," she said. "They're very aggressive and they attack right away."
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