Henman survives marathon to reach last eight

Published on May 30, 2004 09:37 PM IST

Tim Henman reached the quarter-finals of the French Open with a 6-7 (2/7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 9-7 win over French wild card Michael Llodra.

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PTI | ByAgence France-Presse, Paris

Tim Henman battled back from the brink of defeat to edge past French wild-card Michael Llodra and reach the quarter-finals of the French Open here on Sunday.

It was the second time Henman had fought back from two sets down in the tournament after his opening day win over another Frenchman Cyril Saulnier, this time saving a match point in the fifth set.

It put him in the last eight of a Grand Slam event outside of Wimbledon for the first time as he became the the first British player to reach the quarter-finals in Paris since Roger Taylor in 1973.

Henman next plays Juan Ignacio Chela, the 22nd seed from Argentina who defeated Olivier Mutis of France 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 in another fourth round tie, for an unlikely spot in the last four.

Henman's comprehensive, straight sets win over Spanish clay-court specialist Galo Blanco in the third round had raised hopes that he could go much further in the tournament given that he was the highest seed left in his quarter of the draw.

But faced with a completely different obstacle in the form of the aggressive, net-rushing Llodra, Henman struggled to cope.

The British player started well by breaking Llodra's serve in the opening game, but he failed to hold his own in the following.

There was another exchange of service breaks before the tie-break which Llodra dominated from the start with Henman spraying his ground strokes wide and long.

The Frenchman, better known for his doubles play, compounded matters for Henman by breaking his serve in the opening game of the second set and that was enough for him to go two sets up.

Henman had a mountain to climb and with Llodra serving and volleying exceptionally well on the big points he was struggling to get the breakthrough he needed.

Llodra broke first in the fifth game of the third set only for Henman to return the compliment straight away.

Henman was hanging on for dear life, but he stunned a tiring Llodra in the tenth game of the set to make it two sets to one. A single break in the sixth game was then enough to level the match at two sets all.

The British player broke first to lead 2-0 in the decider but cheered on by a packed crowd in the Suzanne Lenglen stadium, Llodra upped his game again to level at 2-2.

It could have gone either way after that but after saving a match point at 4-5 down, Henman made the vital break in the 15th game and then made no mistake on his own serve lashing a forehand winner past a lunging Llodra at match point.

Henman uses the French Open to hone his groundstrokes to help his dream of winning Wimbledon, but this year he will have to delay his return to the grass-courts of London.

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