Courageous performance by Henman

 

TIM HENMAN'S impressive will to win took him into the quarter-finals of the Sydney International yesterday after he fought back from one set down to overpower Spain's Sergi Bruguera 3-6 6-3 6-3.

The British number one showed few signs of jet lag to taste victory for the second time since he touched down in Australia following defeat in Sunday's final of the Qatar Open in Doha at the hands of former world number one Jim Courier.

Bruguera, who has won the French Open twice, beat Henman in both the previous meetings between the pair and broke the 22-year-old Englishman's serve to love in the opening game yesterday.

Henman showed true grit to immediately break back but struggled to master his serve in windy conditions and was broken twice more by the Spaniard, ranked 66th in the world, as he lost the first set.

However, Henman, who admitted to taking "one or two sleeping pills" to help him sleep following his 14-hour flight from the Middle East, raced to a 5-2 lead in the second set, dropping his serve once more before levelling the match at one set all.

But it was at 3-3 in the third set when Henman's self-belief really shone through, with clay-court specialist Bruguera unnerved on the cement as the Englishman repeatedly charged the net.

His bravado was rewarded when he broke the Spaniard's serve in the eighth game of the final set, going on to book his place in the last eight in just under an hour-and-a-half. He will now meet American Alex O'Brien.

"I am probably serving a little bit better than I was 12 months ago, with a little bit more experience," said Henman.

"So when there were really big points to be played I was able to come out and win those points. That translates as me winning the match in the end instead of Sergi."

Bruguera beat world number 18 Felix Mantilla in the first round in Sydney and lost to Courier in the semi-final in Qatar last week and a confident Henman believes that he is now a match for anyone.

"You have got to definitely believe in yourself and whenever I am playing a match now I do believe that I have got a chance against most players. Three-all in the last set is obviously getting down to the wire.

"It's just a question of concentrating and playing your own game, and hopefully that's enough.

Henman, who served two aces and double-faulted twice, added: "After the first set my game plan was to get to the net and win or lose, that's what I would do.

"I can volley well and I should use that aspect of my game. I did so in Doha to good effect."

His next opponent O'Brien, has also enjoyed recent success on the ATP tour, rising from 285th place in the world rankings last July to 37th in the latest list.

He beat Swede Mikael Tillstrom to reach the quarter-finals in Sydney, and will be confident of beating Henman. He won their only previous meeting 1-6 6-4 6-0, a first round encounter in Manchester in the summer of 1994.

But Henman was just looking forward to catching up on missed sleep, although he admitted: "I think I'm just in Australian time but who knows, I might not be able to get to sleep tonight!"