Fly Guy Henman Leaping Forward
Garrod, Mark, The Birmingham Post (England)
Tim Henman and Pete Sampras remain on course for another grand slam collision - this time in conditions Sampras describes as "pretty ridiculous".
Easy second-round victories at the Australian Open in Melbourne - Henman's German opponent Rainer Schuttler quit at 2-6, 1-4 with a stomach muscle injury - kept alive the possibility of the two meeting in next week's quarter-finals.
But after beating Swede Mikael Tillstrom 6-3, 7-6, 6-1, six-time Wimbledon champion Sampras voiced more displeasure about the change to a faster surface from a year ago.
"The balls were flying all over the place - it's quicker than Wimbledon in a way," said the third seed.
"Wimbledon has got the bad bounces and whatever, but these conditions are really pretty ridiculous. There's nothing we can do about it now, but I'm sure with all the people complaining, it will be a little slower next year."
Henman, beaten by Sampras in the semi-finals at Wimbledon for the last two years, has never gone beyond the third round in four previous visits to Melbourne Park. So, not surprisingly, his response was slightly different. "No complaints from me," he smiled. "I'm perfectly happy on these courts."
Henman's next opponent tomorrow is Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean, whom he beat in the third round at Wimbledon last summer.
Sampras' way of trying to cope is to charge the net on every serve and so far, it is paying off. He has still to drop his serve (so has Henman) and while he has not yet volleyed as he can, Tillstrom never looked likely to achieve his first win over Sampras in six attempts. Next up for the 28-year-old American is Zimbabwean qualifier Wayne Black.
Henman, left as the sole British survivor after Julie Pullin's defeat - the Hove player went down to China's Yi Jing-qian 9-7 in the deciding set after missing a match point at 6-5 - is not prepared to turn his thoughts to Sampras yet.
"Grosjean's going to be a very tough opponent. He's got loads of ability," he said. The Frenchman is ranked 27th and was the world's top junior four years ago.
Schuttler had beaten Henman in two of their three previous meetings but had the stomach problem in Doha earlier this month and was in trouble from the start.
"When he served his first serve of the match at 128kmh (only two-thirds normal speed) I wasn't quite sure whether he'd got some new plan for me or whether there was something else that wasn't quite right," Henman explained.
"That's professional sport. You are going to get injuries and sometimes people try to play through, but the stomach is a very difficult one."
As well as breaking in the third and seventh games of the first set, Henman dropped only two points on his own serve. …