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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Henman struggles through
By Piers Newbery
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Tim Henman
Tim Henman made a nervous start to his Wimbledon campaign before fighting back to beat Spain's Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.

The British number one was tentative from the outset as Ramirez dominated the first set from the baseline.

And Henman was in desperate trouble when Ramirez held two points for a two-set lead before nerves finally struck the Spaniard.

Henman found some big serves to turn around the tie-break and took control, coming through 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 6-2.

The British number one admitted he had been below par.

"It wasn't my best performance - I got frustrated with my execution and with the quality of his shots but the most important thing is to get through," he said.

Henman partly blamed his performance on the speed of the surface on Court One.

These are the ones that you've got to find a way through - that's exactly what I did
Tim Henman
"I was taken by surprise by how slow the conditions were," he said.

"That gives a player of his style time to play and the way I like to play is to take their time away.

"I had to take time to construct points, and it's difficult to get used to that on grass."

It was a far from convincing performance from Henman against a player who has won just five matches all year, and had never previously played on grass.

For all the pre-tournament talk of a new "relaxed" Henman, the Briton was soon berating himself on the changeovers as Ramirez played well above his world ranking of 89.

And surprisingly it was at the net where Henman was in difficulty as his volleying completely deserted him.

A break to love in game seven was enough to give Ramirez the first set and, with the crowd becoming noticeably edgy, another followed in game four of the second.

Although Henman recovered the break he was still struggling to find any rhythm, making a catalogue of unforced errors.

The second set tie-break proved to be the decisive moment of the match as Ramirez failed to capitalise from 6-4 ahead.

Finally Henman found a backhand volley and, to the obvious relief of most on Court One, a couple of big serves saw him level the match.

With the crisis averted Henman broke serve twice to take the third set and twice in the fourth to wrap up the match, without ever looking completely comfortable.

The fifth seed finally left Court One after a tough three hours, leaving behind plenty of doubts over his title credentials.

"These are the ones that you've got to find a way through," said Henman. "That's exactly what I did.

"I look forward to trying to play a little bit better on Thursday."

Interview: Tim Henman

Highlights: Wimbledon day two

Tim Henman Wimbledon timeline
10 Jun 04  |  Tennis

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