Henman overcomes two-set deficit for win

Updated: May 30, 2004, 6:26 PM ET
Associated Press

PARIS -- Tim Henman says he will stop shaving as long as he stays in the French Open.

He nearly broke that vow Sunday. Henman rallied from two sets down and saved match point before beating Michael Llodra 6-7 (2), 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 9-7 to advance to the quarterfinals.

"I haven't been shaving the whole clay-court season," joked ninth-seeded Henman, known for his boyish face. "The hair's finally coming through."

Whether or not the facial hair has brought luck, Henman stands one win away from becoming the most successful British player at Roland Garros in Open era history.

If he beats Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela in the quarters, Henman will become the only Briton to reach the Roland Garros semifinals since the Open era began in 1968.

"I'm trying not to look too far down the line," he said. "I've done that in the past and that's when you start having trouble."

He already has followed in his family footsteps. Henman's grandfather, Henry Billington, reached the quarters in 1939.

Henman is 2-2 overall against Chela, with a victory each on clay at Monte Carlo. Chela, the No. 22 seed, advanced to a Grand Slam quarter for the first time, beating Olivier Mutis of France 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-2.

In other men's play Sunday, No. 3 Guillermo Coria, No. 5 Carlos Moya and Xavier Malisse also won.

Coria led 6-0 before Nicolas Escude retired, citing tendinitis in his right shoulder.

Malisse outlasted 2002 French Open champion Albert Costa of Spain 6-4, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6(4), 8-6. The third-round match was suspended Saturday because of darkness. Malisse next faces two-time Grand Slam winner Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round.

Moya, the 1998 champion, beat fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo 7-6 (8), 6-4, 6-2. The fifth-seeded Moya will meet Coria in the quarters.

When Henman walked onto the court against Llodra, it must have felt as if he was home.

A green tarp had just been removed after early rainfall delayed the match -- a scene reminiscent of his favorite grass surface, Wimbledon, where he has reached four semifinals.

Henman looked out of it early against Llodra -- whom he called a "flashy player with a lot of ability."

"For 1 hour, 49 minutes, I played the wrong way," Henman said. "To find a way to come through that is character building. I take a lot of positives from the mental strength I showed."

Llodra, a two-time Grand Slam doubles champion, had some impressive moments. With Henman serving at 2-1 in the decisive set, Llodra retrieved two smashes.

The first was brilliant, the second -- with Llodra stretching backward and volleying a passing shot down the line -- bordered on miraculous.

"It was a one-in-a-million shot," Henman said. "What could I do about that?"

Llodra danced around the court, wheeling his arm like a soccer player after scoring a goal. The roaring crowd chanted "Mika-Mika" -- Henman smiled to himself and tapped his racket to applaud Llodra.

Down 4-5, Henman double-faulted three times but saved match point with a bold pass down the line and then held the next three service games to love.

In Monday's remaining fourth-round matches, three-time French Open winner Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil faces No. 23 Feliciano Lopez of Spain, former U.S. Open winner Marat Safin of Russia takes on No. 8 David Nalbandian of Argentina and Hewitt faces Malisse and Russian Igor Andreev plays Gaston Gaudio of Argentina.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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