TENNIS: Henman in a Hurry to Make French History; HENMAN'S FRENCH OPEN TRIUMPH Tim Saves Best Yet to Send Chela Packing
Byline: FRANK MALLEY in Paris
TIM HENMAN is a man in a hurry to make history.
That's how it looked last night as Henman became the first British man for 41 years to reach the semi-final of the French Open on a day of shocks and showers at Roland Garros.
Henman saved his most ruthless performance yet for yesterday's quarterfinal in which he dismantled the tennis game of so-called clay-court expert Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina in just one hour and 50 minutes to record a 6-2 6-4 6-4 victory.
And who is to say he will not go all the way on the red clay he used to hate and emulate Fred Perry, who went on to win the title in 1935,and remains the only Briton to have done so.
But even though Henman now faces an even tougher test in Argentinian third seed Guillermo Coria in the semi-final the way he is playing no-one should bet against him.
Unlike his four previous opponents,who all inhabited the lower echelons of the world's top 100,Chela was number 22 seed here, the third-best player on clay this season and a dangerous opponent on his favourite surface.
But these days the new Henman, the one with the blistering groundstrokes, the solid serve, the wonderfully soft hands and the unshaven appearance, is a match for anyone in the world on any surface. And this was a mental triumph every bit as much as physical victory.
It had been the most frustrating of days. Henman had spent most of it waiting and wondering whether he would get on to Court Phillippe Chatrier as the showers sent players and spectators scurrying for cover.
It was a shade before 7pm local time when his quarter-final eventually got under way in the flattest of atmospheres. But Henman could not have started in more convincing style.
He broke the first Chela service game and reinforced the advantage in the seventh game when he broke again,his all court style causing all sorts of problems for Chela.
Henman was required to save two break points in the eighth game but still managed to serve out to take the set.
The second set began in curious style with three successive breaks of serve as both men sought to attack.
But again it was Henman who drove home the advantage, being speedier about the court and more precise with his groundstrokes. …