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One of Wimbledon’s more recent traditions continued on Tuesday, with perennial British hope Tim Henman beating a much lower ranked player in tense, tight match that had the centre court crowd screaming with both anguish and delight. The score line, 3-6 6-7(5) 6-4 7-5 6-2, tells it’s own story of how the momentum eventually swung Henman’s way.
Jarkko Nieminen of Finland was the opposition this time, and having held a two-set to love lead, he will feel that he let a big chance slip away. His play, although not out of the top drawer, was certainly consistent enough to be troublesome, and Henman’s usual confidence and touch was missing.
But once the third set started, it was as if Henman woke up to the fact that he was facing a first-round exit from Wimbledon for the first time since his debut in 1994. Attacking the net with more venom, he pressured Nieminen when serving to stay in both the third and fourth sets, and was duly rewarded with the breaks of serve he needed.
Once the fifth set was underway, the tide had turned. Henman raced into a 3-0 lead, settling the crowd’s nerves, and closed the set out 6-2 with a final break of serve.
Afterwards, Henman described his performance as “ordinary at best”, and admitted that the court speed and conditions are again not to his liking. Given his dwindling returns at Wimbledon over the last few years, the British public might be better advised to look to the future: on Tuesday Andrew Murray beat George Bastl, the last man to beat the great Pete Sampras. And he won comfortably in three sets.