New Henman finally cracks Hewitt code

Briton's patient game pays off with victory over his nemesis

Tim Henman beat Lleyton Hewitt. It is a sentence Henman probably thought he might never read after eight successive defeats against the Australian, but the 31-year-old Briton finally got his man here yesterday in the second round of the Nasdaq-100 Open, winning 7-6, 6-3 after a contest lasting an hour and three-quarters. No wonder he clenched his fist in celebration.

Hewitt had been Henman's bête noire ever since their first meeting in Arizona six years ago. The Australian has even got the better of Henman three times on grass and when they last met in competition, on Cincinnati's hard courts in 2004, Hewitt lost only five games.

However, a more recent encounter, combined with a slide in form which has seen Hewitt drop to No 14 in the world rankings, had given Henman reason for hope. They played a practice match in Indian Wells last week which Henman won 6-3, 6-3 and the experience persuaded the Briton to adopt a different strategy. In the past he had always taken an aggressive approach, moving into the net at every opportunity, only for the former Wimbledon champion to relish the target his opponent presented and hit a succession of winning passing shots.

The new game plan was clear from the start. Henman was prepared to bide his time and it was not until the third point of the third game that he hit his first volley. Although he approached the net carefully, Henman still dictated the pace. He hit several outstanding backhand winners down the line and would have won the first set earlier but for a number of poor forehands and the problems posed at one end where he had trouble with the strong sun and a stiff breeze.

As it was, the first set developed into a cliffhanger lasting an hour and 12 minutes. Both players dropped serve twice in the first eight games before Henman broke to lead 6-5. A remarkable game followed as a seemingly nervous Henman failed to convert five set points before Hewitt levelled the scores when the Briton put an attempted drop volley into the net.

The drama continued in the tie-break. Henman led 4-1 with two breaks, only for Hewitt to win the next four points. When Henman hit a backhand winner at 6-5 it was no more than he deserved, for he had played nearly all the best tennis of the set.

Despite a brief wobble in the fourth game, when Henman wasted two points for a 4-0 lead, the outcome of the second set was rarely in doubt and victory was clinched by a forehand volley following an excellent approach shot. With Henman you learn never to take anything for granted, but there is every chance of further progress as his next opponent is Simon Greul, a 25-year-old German ranked No 130 in the world who yesterday surprised the No 17 seed, Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty.

"I had to be a lot more patient, obviously a lot more selective when I came forward," Henman said afterwards. "With the way I've played on clay over the years I've got a lot more confidence in my baseline game, but it's still difficult for me. There are still times where I see a second serve and I say: 'I'm coming in here.' Then I have to say: 'Maybe not. If I'm hitting the ball well from the baseline, let's see if I can open up an opportunity.' And I did that well."

He added: "I still would like to think that for the majority of my matches I'm going to be the one that can look to get forward and chip and charge and be aggressive, because that's the way that I feel more comfortable and I think I'm better at it. But you know what, it's great to beat a player of Hewitt's calibre playing a different kind of style"

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Life and Style
Out and about: for 'Glee' character Bert Hummel, having a gay son was a learning curve
lifeEven 'cool' parents need help parenting gay teens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible