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TennisMagazine

Le Coq Sportif

  Gasquet slumps to Henman in Qatar (CNN)

Press (English)Richard Gasquet, billed as a potential challenger to Roger Federer's crown in 2006, has begun the year with a shock defeat to Briton Tim Henman.

France's world number 17 lost 6-4 6-4 in the first round of the Qatar Open to Henman, who had been written off after the worst season of his career in 2005.

Gasquet made a number of spectacular passes with his celebrated backhand and had several moments when it seemed he might take control of the match.

But he was faced by an opponent who played his best tennis for more than 14 months, and looked to have at least partially rehabilitated himself from a degenerative back condition.

Henman also contained Gasquet's best weapons with slice and cunningly masked net approaches.

"It's difficult to play against him: he's a great player," Gasquet said of the former world number four. "But I haven't played for a long time and it was a difficult match for me.
v "He played very well and I am just happy because I played," added the teenager level-headedly, referring to a three-month absence from competition with an elbow injury.

"Last year I had a lot of pain and now I have no pain, which is good. I just have to practise and I will be OK."

Had Gasquet converted two points to reach 3-1 in the first set, it might have created fertile ground for the full flowering of his vividly colourful ground strokes.

Gasquet might also have got on top had he been able to consolidate his break of Henman's first service game of the second set and extend a 2-0 lead.

But each time the experienced 31-year-old made crafty shot selections to pinch the points which mattered and keep an inhibiting pressure upon the third seed.

"I had difficult times last year and I was pretty frustrated with everything," said Henman, whose fall to 36 in the rankings is his lowest in a decade.



"But I have worked very hard in the close season, and have settled on a style of play which I want to stick to, even if I sometimes don't execute," he added, referring to the measured intervals he took between points.

"It's a good start, but it's a long year and there may be bumps in the road. I'm just looking forward to staying healthy as long as possible," he concluded cautiously.



 

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