ABN AMRO world tennis tournament
History says Henman can stop the Federer express
Henman has psychological advantage in quarter-final encounter
Friday February 20, 2004
Henman: psychological advantage
Roger Federer, the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion, has recently dispelled and dispatched most of those players he previously regarded as his bêtes noires, notably Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt and the Argentinian David Nalbandian.
Today, in the quarter-finals of the grandly named ABN AMRO world tennis tournament, the Swiss world No1 takes on one of his last major obstacles - Tim Henman.
The two have played each other six times since 1999, with Henman winning them all save for a fourth-round match in Key Biscayne two years ago when he was forced to pull out with neck problems after losing the first set. Their most recent meeting was in Paris last autumn when Henman defeated Federer 7-6, 6-1 in the quarter-finals of the Paris Indoor Open, and then went on to win the title, his first major trophy.
That loss turned out to be Federer's last. He went on to win the end-of-season Tennis Masters Cup, followed by the Australian Open title and yesterday he extended his unbeaten competitive run to 16, including the Davis Cup, with a 7-6, 7-5 victory over Romania's Andrei Pavel, the man Henman defeated in the Paris Open final.
Henman had rather less difficulty reaching the last eight with a 6-2, 6-4 win over the young Czech qualifier Tomas Cakl who he had never played before. "I watched him a bit against Jonas Bjorkman so I had a pretty good idea as to how he was going to try and play me," said Henman. "But one of the main things I've been working on this year is concentrating much more on my game plan and letting my opponent worry about me. I feel very comfortable doing that and today was another good example of it working well. I feel if I can execute my game plan well I can trouble anybody, especially indoors."
Whether this confidence extends to troubling Federer will be discovered today. History is on Henman's side, for he has beaten the Swiss three times indoors and twice in front of Federer's home crowd in Basle, including the 2001 final. Yet, since losing to Henman in Paris, Federer has established himself as the world's leading player.
It will be imperative that Henman makes a good start, just as he did yesterday against Cakl: "After that it was a lot easier for me to control the match." As usual there were moments when Henman stuttered, but generally he was always in control, as he would have expected to be against the inexperienced Czech.
Paul Annacone, the former coach of Pete Sampras, and now working part-time with Henman, has been encouraging the 29-year-old British No1 to remain positive at all times, although all the old Henman failings reared up during the third round of the Australian Open. Leading 4-1 in the fifth set against Argentina's Guillermo Canas, Henman lost ignominiously.
Immediately after winning the Australian Open, Federer led Switzerland to a 3-2 Davis Cup first round victory over Romania, winning the decisive rubber against Pavel.
I think losing to Tim in the Basel01 Final was what did it to Rogi... that was the 2nd time he lost that final... 2 yrs in a row... he was crying during the ceremony!
Cakl and Pavel, hardly the same level of player!
It's time for ROGI to do the deed vs. Tim -- it's NOW or NEVER!! [I said that for Paris-Bercy03 too!!]
Rogi has to be mentally strong and keep down his UEs and reverse the tables...