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Henman, Federer set for showdown

india Updated: Jun 28, 2006 17:01 IST
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Britain's Tim Henman, refusing to be overawed by the world number one, said on Tuesday he was still "absolutely" convinced he could beat triple Wimbledon champion Roger Federer when they meet in the second round.

Revelling in his role as the underdog, Henman was relieved that the crushing pressure of expectation was not on his shoulders.

But he said it was vital to go on the offensive against Federer who on Tuesday broke Bjorn Borg's record 41-match grasscourt winning sequence with a scintillating 6-3 6-2 6-2 first round victory over Frenchman Richard Gasquet.

Henman put his devoted home fans through the emotional wringer when defeating his first round opponent, Sweden's Robin Soderling.

Four times a semi-finalist at Wimbledon, he put in one of his typical rollercoaster performances before triumphing 6-7 6-3 6-2 1-6 6-3.

For the other two big names in British tennis, it was a day of mixed fortunes.

Scottish teenager Andy Murray, who reached the third round last year on his Wimbledon debut, beat Chile's Olympic gold medallist Nicolas Massu 6-1 6-4 6-4 in an impressive Centre Court display of power tennis.

But British number one Greg Rusedski was scuttled out of Wimbledon in the first round. He was never able to get in an effective blow against Russia's double grand slam winner Marat Safin who won 6-4 6-4 6-4.

CONFIDENT TALK

In sharp contrast to the dejected Rusedski, Henman was confidently talking the talk when reflecting on his clash with Federer.

Asked if he believed he could win, Henman said "Absolutely Yeah... I know my game matches up well."

"I've got to play my own game and try and create some opportunities, not let him dictate as much as he likes to do. When you get the opportunities, you've got to try and take them."

"With all due respect it's very much another match for me," Henman said. "If you're talking about a favourite and an underdog, Roger will be the favourite."

But at least Henman is leading 6-4 in their matches, having most famously knocked Federer out of Wimbledon in 2001 after the young Swiss player had eliminated Pete Sampras. Henman, who has not won a tournament since the Paris Masters in 2003, lost the first set tiebreak against Soderling with an apparent ace, electronically called out, followed by a double fault. Playing in his 13th Wimbledon, he steadied to win the next two sets before Soderling easily levelled the match. The former British number one was dominant in the final set, however.

Henman was joined in the second round by British wildcard Richard Bloomfield, ranked 259 in the world, who pulled off a comprehensive 6-1 6-2 6-2 win over Argentine Carlos Belocq, ranked 88.

However there was little for local fans to cheer in the women's singles.

British number one Anne Keothavong was trounced 6-0 6-2 by Croatian Karolina Sprem. Katie O'Brien lost 2-6 7-6 6-2 to Italian Tathiana Garbin while wild card Naomi Cavaday lost her baseline duel with Japan's Ai Sugiyama 6-4 7-5.

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