Relaxed Henman cruises through first test

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The Independent Online

Tim Henman opened his defence of the Paris Masters title last night with an exemplary display in defeating Paradorn Srichaphan, of Thailand, 6-3, 6-4, after 64 minutes.

Tim Henman opened his defence of the Paris Masters title last night with an exemplary display in defeating Paradorn Srichaphan, of Thailand, 6-3, 6-4, after 64 minutes.

In relaxed mood, having already qualified for the Masters Cup in Houston on Monday week, the British No 1 was rarely troubled by the 26th-ranked Srichaphan, defeating him for the sixth time in seven meetings and advancing to the third round (he was given a bye in the first round).

Comfortably holding serve - he dropped five points in the first set and only two in the second - Henman broke for 4-2 in the first set and for 5-4 in the second, and generally underlined why he will be a hard act to follow in the British game.

As with most junior champions, Britain's 17-year-old Andrew Murray will discover that it takes far more than impressive strokes to make a successful transition to the ATP Tour.

The latest French aspirants, the lithe Gael Monfils and the sturdy Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, demonstrated their resilience and talent after being put under fire at the Paris Masters. Having fought through the qualifying tournament, both managed to absorb the loss of an opening set to overcome established opponents.

Monfils, 18, defeated the experienced Thomas Enqvist, of Sweden, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, to earn the right to play Lleyton Hewitt, the Australian former world No 1. Tsonga, 19, edged past Mario Ancic, of Croatia, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3. It was Ancic who ended Tim Henman's run in the Wimbledon quarter-finals. As Tsonga said: "Normally in a junior tournament, if you are among the best, it's not very difficult. On the men's tour, when you play the first point of the match, it's already a major fight. That's the difference."

Tsonga hit 11 aces against the 30th-ranked Ancic and saved five out of six break points. In the deciding set, he broke in the first and final games. After an unpromising start to the year, Tsonga won 41 matches in six months, including a victory against Carlos Moya, the world No 6, in Beijing in September.

"The turning point was to become a man after being a simple boy," Tsonga said. Born in Le Mans, Tsonga has Congolese roots and is one of seven children. Facially he resembles a young Muhammad Ali.

Monfils, the winner of the year's first three Grand Slam junior titles (he defeated Britain's Miles Kasiri in the final at Wimbledon), was almost blown off the court by Enqvist in the opening set on Monday night. The 30-year-old from Stockholm won the first five games.

"My mind wasn't right," Monfils said. "I was panicking, because of the crowd and because my performance was not so good." Soon, however, the crowd roared in response to Monfils' stirring recovery as he proceeded to produce the winning shot in some breathtaking rallies.

As he prepared to serve for the match, a spectator collapsed and had to be carried out of the arena on a stretcher. After the delay, Monfils stepped up and served out to love. Two years ago, Monfils' serve was a weakness. He studied Andy Roddick, the "Boca bullet", and copied the American's feet-together stance. The choice of red shoes emphasises the French youngster's footwork, and his gold necklace swings with the rhythm of his movements.

Born in Paris of French- Caribbean descent, Monfils is a product of the French Federation's training programme. Recently he joined a multi-sports club owned by Arnaud Lagardère, a wealthy patron, who also sponsors the 18-year-old Richard Gasquet, who made his mark at Monte Carlo in 2002.

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