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  Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
All eyes on Henman
A dejected Tim Henman at last year's French Open
A dejected Tim Henman at last year's French Open
British eyes will once again be bearing down on Tim Henman and his suspect clay form at the French Open.

The British number one has consistently underperformed on the slow red surface.

Henman appeared to have found the secret earlier in the season when he reached the quarter-finals at the Masters Series event in Monte Carlo before falling to clay specialist Hicham Arazi.

Along the way he had two impressive quick-fire wins in the early rounds, and then beat Albert Costa, another expert on the surface.

Journeyman pro

Henman was then drawn against Costa again in the first round in the Rome Masters event and once more he won in three sets.

But he was beaten by unheralded qualifier Julien Boutter in the next round, before crashing 6-1 6-4 to Lars Burgsmuller in the first round in Hamburg.

Like Boutter, Burgsmuller was also a qualifier, and in truth the German is a journeyman pro, the sort of player Henman must beat if he hopes to progress on clay.

Henman's form at Roland Garros has been particularly disappointing - between 1996 and 1998 he was knocked out in the first round, and the last two years he has only made it as far as the third round.

Tim Henman in action
Henman's serve-volley game is not suited to clay
Last year Henman began the French Open promisingly, winning the first two rounds against America's Vincent Spadea and Germany's Christian Vinck in straight sets.

But this run soon came to an end with defeat in the third round to Spaniard Fernando Vicente.

Henman remains without a coach, and there is a feeling that he will not fulfil his potential until he has an expert in the background to fine tune his tactics.

A feature of Henman's performances on clay this season has been the number of unforced errors he has produced - even in the games he has won.

But if Henman gets a favourable draw at Roland Garros and can find the consistency of form he showed in Monte Carlo, there is no reason why he cannot have his best French Open to date.

Tim Henman's record on clay since 1996 (Victories first):

1996, 0-1, (1)
1997 2-4 (6)
1998 3-5 (8)
1999 7-8 (15)
2000 9-6 (15)
2001 5-4 (9)

26 victories, 28 defeats in 54 matches on clay

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