Thursday, August 12, 1999

Henman on brink of joining elite

Briton trying to establish consistency

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Tim Henman
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        MASON — Tim Henman looks at the top four players of the men's tennis rankings and believes he's close to breaking into such elite company.

        Henman owns victories against three of the top four — Yevgeny Kafelnikov (3-7 overall), Andre Agassi (1-1) and Patrick Rafter (2-2) — but is 0-6 against No.1 Pete Sampras.

        The No.5 seed at the Great American Insurance ATP Championship, Henman defeated John Van Lottum 6-2, 6-1 in the second round. He will play Nicolas Kiefer in the round of 16.

        Henman is 33-20 this year, finishing second twice and losing in the semifinals to Sampras at Wimbledon for the second year in a row. Henman has yet to win a title in 1999.

        “I feel like my game's sort of developing all the time,” said the Englishman, who turns 25 next month. “I still feel there are a lot of errors I can improve on. I think my serving is still very inconsistent.

        “My serve is sometimes my biggest weapon and sometimes can be a bit of a liability. If I've made (No.5) in the world with what I've got at the moment, and I can improve on all these errors, then I think I've got a lot more to achieve.”

        Henman finished No.7 in 1998, his first time in the top 10, and has improved his year-end ranking every year since he turned pro in 1993.

        He is currently a career-high No.5.

        But climbing the poll any further may require some more success against the men ranked ahead of him.

        “I feel I've brought more of a consistency to my game, and that's what I need,” Henman said. “I feel I've got a much better understanding of what I need to do on the court.

        “I've shown at different times that I'm capable of beating the very, very best. If I can then learn to do that more and more consistently, then it's inevitable that the results will follow. I definitely can't have too many complaints with the way I've been playing.”

        As for his record against Sampras: “They've gotten closer and closer. If I keep putting myself in that situation, then I'll beat him one day. It'd be nice to make it this week.”

        Henman can handle pres sure. That's for sure.

        There may be no greater fishbowl than Henman at Wimbledon. Even Sampras has told Henman he's glad he's not British because of the media spotlight during the Grand Slam event.

        As Henman progresses in the tournament, the attention just grows. He has been a semifinalist the last two years and was a quarterfinalist in 1997 and '96.

        “It's pretty chaotic, really,” Henman said. “You've got to make sure you remember what you're there for. But if that's what you're accustomed to, then it doesn't seem quite as abnormal as it does to others.

        “Those two, three, four weeks around Wimbledon (are) definitely a pretty intense month, but it's my favorite time of the year, and Wimbledon's my favorite tournament.”


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