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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
How Tim can triumph in Paris
By Tom Fordyce

Tim Henman goes into Friday's semi-final at the French Open as the rank outsider.

Revealed - the shots Henman must play to beat Coria.

His opponent Guillermo Coria has won 36 of his last 37 matches on clay and is red-hot favourite to go through to Sunday's final.

So what must Tim do to upset the odds, and what tactics should he use?


Henman cannot afford to let a player of Coria's ability relax. He has to come out for the first game completely sure of how he will play, according to his former coach David Felgate.

"No matter what tactics Tim uses, he has to be clear in his mind what he is doing," Felgate told BBC Sport.

"You saw that in the fourth round against Michael Llodra, where he wasn't clear and struggled.

"In the quarters against Juan Ignacio Chela, he was sure from the word go. If the ball was there to be taken on, he'd take it on - and his confidence grew."


It would be easy for Henman to get intimidated by Coria's vastly superior record on clay.

But, according to his coach Paul Annacone, Henman should follow the example of his former charge, Pete Sampras.

"Pete is the one who taught me that. He used to say: 'Look, if I play well there's nothing to worry about. No-one's going to beat me.'

"It's the same for Tim. It's that simple."


Conventional wisdom says clay court matches are won from the back of the court.

Tim Henman being coached by Paul Annacone
Annacone (right) works with Henman on his tactics pre-semi

Trouble is, Coria is a superior baseliner to Henman. If Tim tries to take him on at his own game, he doesn't have a chance.

The solution? Do what he does best, not try to ape a style that is foreign to him.

"It was pretty clear Tim was probably the best volleyer in the world, and the best mover at the net in the world in a time when that game is a little bit foreign," says Annacone.

"So you have to maximise those skills, and figure out ways to create opportunities to end up at the net as much as you can.

"It's not that complicated."


Coria isn't stupid. He is aware of how Henman has managed to get this far.

"I always try to analyse my opponent, see their shortcomings and their strong points and how I can use that to my advantage," says the Argentine.

Therefore, it's crucial that Tim doesn't get too predictable.

"He won't serve-volley all the time and he won't stay back all the time," says Felgate. "He mixes it up and plays the short angles.

"He's patient when he needs to be, and when he gets the opportunity he comes forward. But he doesn't come forward on rubbish - he's got the balance right.

"He's the only player on tour who plays like that. Clay-court specialists don't often play against that game."


There will come a point when Henman is physically tired, possibly down in the match and struggling to contain Coria.

It is then that he must dig deep, just as he did to fight back from two sets down against Cyril Saulnier in the first round and to win from match point down against Llodra.

"You can come up with a thousand reasons not to compete, or ways to get out of putting yourself on the line," says Annacone.

"The great players try to find a way to fight through.

"To me, that's a huge indication not only of character but also the desire to compete.

"Tim's done that twice now (in Paris), which is tremendous."


"I remember this week 10 years ago, when Tim was 19 years old, practising at Queen's and watching the French Open on television," says Felgate.

"He was dreaming then. Nobody knew then what he could do.

"Everyone can hit a ball at this level. What makes a difference is self-belief, and go the extra mile. Tim has that.

"No matter what you say about his talent, his application and his dedication and his willingness to learn and try and work is second to none."

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