I'm playing as well as ever, says British No 1

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The Independent Online

"First things first, what time is it?" Tim Henman was in no mood to talk.

The minutes were ticking down to England's kick-off against Switzerland and Britain's finest had an urgent appointment with a television set at home.

He had just won his first match on grass this year - albeit no more than an exhibition work-out - at the Boodle and Dunthorne Champions Challenge at Stoke Park Club, beating Nicolas Massu 6-3, 6-4. "You've got 10 minutes," the fast talking Henman said with his eye on the clock.

The match had been a bit of a hoot all round. The official reason for the pairing with Massu, the world No 12 and chap with red clay still clinging to his shoes, was that Henman wanted to hone his ground strokes on the eve of The Championships.

The unofficial reason was he did not want to get mashed three days before Wimbledon began. As it was, he did more or less what he wanted against the man from Chile while Massu did the jokes. It has been just what Henman was looking for after losing in the first round at Queen's last week.

"It was absolutely ideal," he said. "To play a match like that with a crowd, an umpire, line judges, ball kids - it was just what I needed."

Henman was in relaxed form - England match notwithstanding - and was not going to dwell on his fortunes in the coming two weeks. He has been drawn to play Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, of Spain, in the first round and beyond that, Henman will not look.

"Coming into Wimbledon, I know I'm playing as well as I've ever played," he said. "My results show that. Now I have to take that on to the match court on Tuesday and, if I'm able to win that, take it on to the match court on Thursday. It's very simple and basic thinking.

"What's gone on in the past or what's going to happen in the future, you can't control that, so I'm just going to do what I can. I do that every time I step on the match court. I'll give it my best shot and we'll find out how good it is this year."

And with that Henman was off, back to the important business of the day.

Just as with his Wimbledon preparations, Henman hoped he had timed it to perfection - if he floored it, he would be back in Barnes in time for the kick-off.

* Spain's Rafael Nadal and France's Nicolas Escude withdrew from Wimbledon yesterday. Nadal has been advised against playing by his doctor, while Escude has withdrawn for unspecified reasons.