Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Feat of Clay Hands the Advantage to Clinical Henman

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Feat of Clay Hands the Advantage to Clinical Henman

Article excerpt


TIM HENMAN will go into his French Open semi-final with third seed Guillermo Coria holding a massive psychological advantage on a surface that is supposed to bring out the worst in his game.

Henman proved, with his quarterfinal destruction of Juan Ignacio Chela, that he has a unique way of fashioning victories on the red clay of Roland Garros.

His serve-and-volley tactics, unorthodox to say the least on this slow surface, blew away the 22nd seed 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in 1hr 50min.

Another Argentine, Coria, now stands in his way of making a first appearance in a Grand Slam final and the British No1 will use the same tactics to unsettle the man he believes is the best clay court exponent in the world.

If ninth seed Henman goes through it will be the first appearance by a British player in a French Open final since Sue Barker's victory in 1976.

Henman, who had failed to get past the third round on eight previous appearances in Paris, said: "I have seen some of the Argentine guys talking about my game and trying to play the sliced shots I use and, generally, they don't like playing me on clay. You get an idea of what they are complaining about and that's a good sign."

The centre court stadium, which stages the semi-final on Friday, was only a third full last night for the match following Amelie Mauresmo's defeat in the women's singles but those who did remain saw an historic win by Henman.

His play was so clinical it appeared as if Chela was a novice on clay, not one of four Argentine's trying to fill all of the semi-final places.

Lengthy rain delays only added to the problems Henman faced but all those wet days at Wimbledon meant he was mentally prepared to wait it out until the match started at 6.56pm.

Henman said: "There was a distinct possibility of four Argentines making the semi-finals and perhaps there will now be three of them and one Brit!

"You would have got pretty long odds at the beginning of the tournament on that happening. …

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