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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 June, 2004, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
'Baby Goran' stands in Henman path
By Caroline Cheese
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

HENMAN (5) v ANCIC
Tim Henman (left) and Mario Ancic
29-----------Age-------------20
British-------Nat------Croatian
0-----------Slams-------------0
11------Career titles--------0
$9.9m----Earnings-----$0.6m
0------Head-to-head--------0

So Henman fans can relax.

The British number one has passed the sternest of tests against Mark Philippoussis and now it is downhill all the way to the semi-finals as he takes on the unseeded Mario Ancic in the last eight.

Or is it?

This is Henman at Wimbledon, where nothing is ever as it seems, and his quarter-final opponent tends to save his best for the grass of SW19.

At the age of 19, Ancic earned the moniker "Baby Goran" after blasting his way past Roger Federer in the first round in 2002 in the manner of his countryman and former champion Goran Ivanisvic.

In fact, the Croat was the last player to beat Federer on grass, with the Swiss genius going on a 21-match winning streak after that shock defeat.

Ancic, on the other hand, did not exactly set the world alight after his momentous win, and he remains outside the world's top 50 and without a title to his name.

But at 6ft 5in, Ancic remains a threat on grass and with the Croat launching huge serves and charging to the net behind, Henman will face a very similar prospect to Philippoussis.

Ivanisevic certainly believes that Ancic is his natural successor.

"I think he can be a great player - he's still young but he's going to learn," he said after ending his Wimbledon career on Friday.

ANCIC: ROAD TO THE QUARTERS
R1 L Horna (33)
6-7 6-4 6-3 6-4
R2 J Benneteau
4-6 7-6 6-2 5-7 6-4
R3 D Hrbaty (25)
7-5 6-3 7-5
R4 X Malisse
7-5 3-1 ret
Ivanisevic, a national hero in Croatia after his 2001 Wimbledon triumph, is a mentor of sorts to Ancic - wishing the younger Croat luck via text message.

"He's a big name in Croatia so he has a lot of influence on all of us," said Ancic.

"We are a small country, so to have somebody around you when you're growing up who speaks your language and is also competing at Wimbledon, it's great."

And he will be hoping to emulate Ivanisevic's triumph over Henman in the 2001 semi-final - a five-set epic played over two days.

Many believe that defeat ended Henman's best chance of winning Wimbledon, but he has risen again and Britain is once again in the throes of "Henmania" - particularly after his performance against Philippoussis.

Henman will again be backed by a frenzied Centre Court crowd, and the masses on "Henman Hill", but Ancic is unlikely to be cowed by the prospect.

Aged 18, he made his SW19 debut on Wimbledon's biggest stage - and took apart Federer in straight sets.

Henman's return, which was so impressive against Philippoussis, will again be key to the outcome, as will the quality of Ancic's own return against this sometimes fallible part of Henman's game.

The fifth seed will start as favourite to book a probable semi-final against second seed Andy Roddick, but given the agony of Henman's matches so far, it seems unlikely to be the foregone conclusion it might seem on paper.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Preview: Ancic ready for Henman


Interview: Tim Henman



SEE ALSO
Tim Henman Wimbledon timeline
10 Jun 04 |  Tennis



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