Last Stop: 4th Round?
Henman v. Llodra...
Tim sealed one of his more comfortable wins at Wimbledon when he dispatched of Michael Llodra in straights in the second round, but just how much has the Frenchman improved since then? His serve and volley game is underpinned by a solid foundation of power (often clocking over 200 kmh on serve), and his dismissal of compatriots in the past two rounds looks ominous. How the match weighs up in pros and cons in my view:-
-Henman would much rather play against a guy who (like himself) looks to finish points off quickly on clay, as opposed to your typical claycourt grinder. Also, Henman quite likes having a target at the net.
-Henman has his reputation in the game, and his top ten ranking, to perhaps intimidate Llodra.
-Llodra (despite his talk to the contrary) will have some pressure on him because of the partisan crowd, and the fact he has never got into the singles quarter-final of a grand slam before.
-Henman will have more experience on his side should the match go down to the wire.
-Henman's most acknowledged strength, his netplay, gives him an advantage over Llodra in that the Frenchman's strength is likewise his netplay, but it is inferior to Henman's. Additionally, Henman's baseline play is stronger than Llodra's.
-Much of the match will be shown by the BBC, provided the weather holds up (which apparently it won't be).
-The match is scheduled on the dreaded Suzanne Lenglen Court. It is markedly slower than Chatrier, and court 2 (where Henman played Blanco), and as such it will be harder for the Brit to conclude points as quickly as he may like.
-Llodra may very well be able to play with absolute freedom because of his underdog status, and his flashy power play could shut Tim out of the contest if he's consistent enough.
-Henman's serve is so often his achille's heel. Yes, he served 19 aces against Blanco, but regularly in matches we see opponents pounce on his dodgy kicking second serves and blast them past him. Worse still, we saw Saulnier able to return Henman's first serve deep onto the baseline and force the Brit into losing positions; and that was on the Suzanne Lenglen Court. Just ask Roddick whether or not it takes the stick out of your serve.
-By his part-time detractors (such as myself), Henman can be known as a big choker. I can safely say he has boosted this reputation in his past three grand slam losses: losing form two-sets-to-love-up against Canas in Australia; serving for the second at 5-4 in the US Open against Roddick, then losing the set...; having three consecutive set points against Grosjean in Wimbledon with a 6-3 lead in the first set tiebreak, only to lose them. These moments are never pretty, and there is an alarming back catalogue of them in smaller tournaments and other grand slams. Playing for a debut appearance in the qurater-final of a grand slam outside Wimbledon? We poor fans may be subjected yet again to a recurrence of the shaky-knees syndrome.
"Game, Set, Match Llodra" -Words I hope not to hear.