Optimum fitness gives Henman added incentive

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The Independent Online

Tim Henman is ready to face Radek Stepanek in the last 16 of the Nasdaq-100 Open here, relieved to be physically fit enough to play the game his way again. On Monday night, the British No 1 breezed past Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3, 6-1 and said that he had now reached peak fitness.

Tim Henman is ready to face Radek Stepanek in the last 16 of the Nasdaq-100 Open here, relieved to be physically fit enough to play the game his way again. On Monday night, the British No 1 breezed past Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3, 6-1 and said that he had now reached peak fitness.

"When I reflect on it, there were fitness issues when I got on the hard courts in Toronto and Cincinnati [last season] and I wasn't really aware of the problem, but I was a bit stiff and then it really flared up at the US Open," the 30-year-old said. "It is great to be out there and really going after my shots, moving forward and lunging at the net, because that's when I'm going to be at my most effective - it's great to feel 100 per cent."

Henman broke Chela in the eighth game and never looked back, dominating his less mobile opponent with some superb tennis. "Even when I played him at Roland Garros I was trying to get forward as much as possible and on a hard court with a sure footing I can do that," he said. "But you still have to choose the right time to do it, because if you come in on an absolutely rubbish shot he is going to hit them past you."

The world No 1, Roger Federer, had a battle on his hands in his men's third-round tie against Mariano Zabaleta before beating the Argentinian 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 to notch up his 18th win in succession.

In the women's draw, Serena Williams was due to play her sister, Venus, in last night's quarter-finals. Venus needed three sets to get past the feisty Colombian qualifier Catalina Castano 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 while Serena had to come from 3-1 down in the final set to beat the Russian Elena Likhovtseva 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.

In a litany of upsets, the French Open champion Anastasia Myskina fell victim to a resurgent Kim Clijsters. Myskina's compatriot and fellow Grand Slam champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, also went out - to the 17-year-old Serbian Ana Ivanovic.

Clijsters has now lost just once since returning to the tour last month after missing most of last season with a wrist injury. The 21-year-old, who next faces fourth seed Elena Dementieva, was joined in the quarter-finals by fellow Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Maria Sharapova had no intention of joining the seeded casualties and defeated Shinobu Asagoe, of Japan, 6-1, 6-2.

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