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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 20:52 GMT
Henman sets up meeting with Nadal
Tim Henman
Henman was delighted with the way he played in the ninth game of the final set
Tim Henman says his Dubai Open victory over Radek Stepanek has given him a big lift just when he needed it most.

The British number three came from 5-3 down in the final set to beat the seventh seed and book a quarter-final meeting with second seed Rafael Nadal.

"To raise my level when it mattered like that is an important step for me," said Henman, who won 7-5 2-6 7-6 (7-3).

"Psychologically it's important. There were encouraging signs in Rotterdam and Zagreb but I didn't get the wins."

Henman believes he will never play a better game than the one which kept him alive towards the end of the deciding set.

Stepanek looked favourite to wrap up the match when serving for the set at 5-3, but Henman struck four clean winners to break in spectacular fashion.

I'm looking forward to playing Rafa because there will be no pressure on me
Tim Henman

"I won't play any better than I did in that game," said Henman. "To hit four winners like I did is pretty satisfying.

"Stepanek was serving pretty aggressively and consistently so there is no point in trying to chip the ball back in when it is like that."

The 31-year-old set the tone for the game with a perfect topspin lob and completed the break with his first opportunity when he found a superb angle with his backhand return of serve.

The win, coupled with Andy Murray's first-round defeat in Las Vegas, ensures Henman will reclaim the British number one position when the world rankings are updated next week.

However, Henman will be defending a lot of points in the upcoming Masters Series events in Indian Wells and Miami where he reached the quarter-finals last year, so unless he can progress further in Dubai that pre-eminence may be short lived.

Standing in his way next is Nadal, who was given a walkover against Younes El Aynaoui.

"I'm looking forward to playing Rafa because there will be no pressure on me," said the Briton.

"I don't want too many baseline rallies because there will only be one winner, but I go in there as the underdog and I'm feeling in good shape."

Interview: Britain's Tim Henman

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