Gloom gathers as Henman meets nemesis
By Mark Hodgkinson
In pics: Day four action
On a rain-soaked and deeply frustrating day at Roland Garros, the players were forced to scurry on and off the clay courts all morning, afternoon and early evening, a sight that made it look as though they were doing the hokey cokey with tennis rackets.
The Wimbledon-style weather badly affected Tim Henman, who was forced to wait around for much of the day for his second-round meeting with Dmitry Tursunov. After finally walking on to Court Two with the Russian just after 7.30pm, the Briton did not produce his best tennis, and when play was called off for the day he found himself trailing by two sets to love, 6-3, 6-2.
When Henman, Britain's sole remaining representative in the singles, and Tursunov had emerged on to the crushed brick as the third scheduled match of the day the light was already fading. Play was suspended just after 9pm due to bad light.
Henman has lost to Tursunov in two of the previous three grand slam events, at last year's Wimbledon and in the first round of this season's Australian Open. He will do well to prevent his California-based opponent completing the third leg of the 'Dmitry Slam'. Such was Henman's frustration that he received a code violation in the second set for an audible obscenity.
With all the interruptions, much of the excitement was rinsed from the schedule, but Roger Federer made it into the third round with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 defeat of Alejandro Falla, a Colombian lucky loser. But Switzerland's world No 1 could not always maintain his rhythm, and only occasionally was he satisfied with the standard of his tennis.
Federer, who will next play Chilean Nicolas Massu, disclosed that he has been feeling the pressure of trying to become only the sixth man in history to win all four grand slam tournaments, joining Australians Rod Laver and Roy Emerson, Britain's Fred Perry, and Americans Don Budge and Andre Agassi. "I would like to win here and the pressure is quite big. But I enjoy the challenge," he admitted.
Andy Roddick, a first-round loser, is considering an approach to Jimmy Connors to coach him on a part-time basis. It is understood that Roddick, a former world No 1 and US Open champion, would not require Connors to travel with him to every tournament on his schedule, but would like a working relationship similar to that between Federer and his coach, Australian Tony Roche, with face-to-face contact only at key times of the year, such as before the grand slam events.
Connors, one of the great names of the sport, could become Roddick's fifth coach in three years. In that time Roddick has worked with Tarik Benhabiles, Brad Gilbert and Dean Goldfine, and is currently accompanied on the tour by his older brother, John.
Connors is apparently already aware of Roddick's interest in him, and may be willing to mull over a future working arrangement. Connors has indicated that he might like to work with the younger generation, and two years ago he publicly flirted with the possibility of working as a coaching consultant for the Lawn Tennis Association.
After winning his first grand slam title at the US Open in 2003, Roddick was spoken of as someone who might go on to win several more, but that has not happened, and not just because of the greatness of Federer. Though Roddick has a gargantuan serve and a huge forehand, the technical weaknesses in his backhand and his inability to stay in rallies have since been exposed, and his confidence has duly suffered.
Working with Connors, a player who was known for his fighting qualities, could put life back into Roddick's tennis. Roddick left the French Open after retiring from his opening match against Spaniard Alberto Martin with a damaged ankle, and there is every chance he could be in contact with Connors before the grass-court season starts at Queen's Club a week on Monday.
Any concerns about Andy Murray's lower back ahead of playing at Queen's Club eased slightly yesterday when he opted to enter the doubles draw here. Murray had experienced considerable discomfort during his opening-round defeat to France's Gael Monfils with growing pains in his lower back, but he has gone into the doubles with James Auckland, a fellow Briton.
Murray and Auckland came into the draw as alternates, replacing a pairing who had withdrawn because of injury, and will play Australians Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr.