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March 17, 2004

Tim Henman


Q. Another really good one.


Q. Backhand couldn't have worked more sweetly, could it?

TIM HENMAN: Yeah, no, just -- Is that my third win against Arthurs?

THE MODERATOR: You were 2-0 before.

TIM HENMAN: Queen's and Australian Open. Move on to the quarterfinals for third time at Indian Wells.

THE MODERATOR: Yeah. Good. Do you want to talk about quarterfinal head-to-heads?

TIM HENMAN: Not really. What am I against Escude? Four and seven against?

THE MODERATOR: 4-7, yes.

TIM HENMAN: Anyway, first question. I thought my return, in general, was really, really good. I knew that I got to make him play as many volleys as possible because, you know, he can hit some flashy volleys, but sometimes can be a bit erratic. You certainly wouldn't put a great deal of money on breaking when you're 40-Love behind on his serve. And just to break that first game, I think it settled me down so quickly, if anything, it probably irritated him. I just felt that every service game of his, I was really making him play, hitting good passing shots. That's a great feeling for me, and I'm sure not a good one for him.

Q. In that first game, in fact, you couldn't have wished for more?

TIM HENMAN: No. The first three -- I think his first three serves were his best serves of the match. Then, as you say, I hit a couple of good returns. He missed one, a bit of a shaky forehand volley. When I got those opportunities, I think, you know, someone said I only made six unforced errors in the match. I had five breakpoints, and I took them all. Yeah, I mean, you wouldn't expect to be breaking five times. But certainly when you get an opportunity against him, you really want to try and take it, because you wouldn't have thought there are going to be too many flying around. No, it was -- I was very pleased with the performance.

Q. You don't get to win many matches in one hour either, do you, these days?

TIM HENMAN: No, certainly not. I think the timing of the match or the length of the other matches, probably just as we came onto court as the shadow was coming across, that helped. I mean, it slowed things down a fraction. It's just that little bit that you need. Having said that, he's still serving 130, 132 in the first game. I just felt like I was able to get enough on the returns. I still, you know, backed it up, backed it up with my own serve.

Q. I was going to ask you about your own serve. Seemed to be pretty good?

TIM HENMAN: I was mixing it up well and serving aggressively. The only game that I came unstuck in was the game where, you know, I said to myself, "You know, good first set, 6-1. Serving first in the second set. Let's get off to a good start. You don't want to drop your serve early." Immediately, I think, "That's not quite the right thought process." Whereas before I'd been very loose, pick your spot, this is where you're going to serve. He hit some good shots. He had good backhand-return first points. Ended up serving a double on the breakpoint, which wasn't great. But then I picked up my rhythm very quickly after that, and the remainder of the match I felt very comfortable on my serve. Yeah, it was a good performance all around.

Q. Do you think you're getting better at keeping that inner voice quiet?

TIM HENMAN: Yes. I think, as Paul and I were just talking about afterwards, you know, perhaps in the past it's taken me a couple of games to work it out. Today, you know, it was a service game too late. But again, you know, talking about realizing that you're trying a little bit too hard and the rhythm is not quite as good as it could have been. Then, you know, hopefully you can snap out of it after a couple of points. You know, ideally you want to be able to maintain your rhythm for the whole match. But I think it's inevitable you're going to have those times when you lose your rhythm. I think to break back as quickly as I did certainly didn't let his hopes get up too much.

Q. Do you think that's the biggest change that you've seen working with Paul, that sort of mental change?

TIM HENMAN: Yeah, mentally I'm a bit better on my serve, being more aggressive . But I think physically I'm serving a lot better. You know, there were a couple of times when, you know, I was checking the speed gun. Just in the last game I think I hit a couple of solid, consistent serves. It was 121, 122. You know, I think when you're serving -- and that really felt like I wasn't trying. I was looking to hit a spot and be consistent. When you're serving at that type of level and it feels very comfortable, I find that a good sign, because there are other times when, you know, I really set out to be aggressive in the first game, and all of a sudden I was serving, you know, 126, 128. It's been a long time since I've served like that.

Q. Is it possible also to perhaps say a few words about Johan. He was around in the period when you were between coaches. He's still there now. Your fitness level seems to be as good if not better than before. What about that relationship?

TIM HENMAN: Yes, he deserves some credit actually because he's been through the whole process. He's sort of seen my shoulder at its worst. He's been instrumental in sort of putting it back together, you know, building up my overall strength so much in the last 12 months. Yeah, you know, as I think you all know, I'm not going to be the bulkiest of guys. But I do feel very strong, very fit out there. That's not only helping in my serve, but helping in my overall game. I felt like, you know, a good example of that was the way that I returned. Because I was actually returning to try and set up a second shot. I think it showed in the pressure that he felt on his first volley, because he knew that, you know, if he just knocks it somewhere without much stick on it, then I was in position quickly and hitting some good passing shots. So, yeah, I mean, it's a part of a process, a long-term plan that I feel I am very fit. If I stay healthy, there's no reason why I can't, you know, keep improving for years to come.

Q. As somebody who has felt quite faint just sitting there for two sets the other day and watching, how does someone like you, from a naturally cooler climate, condition yourself to play in that intense heat?

TIM HENMAN: I don't know. I don't know why. But I do feel really comfortable in the heat. I've never really struggled. I don't know. I think I'm the body type, I don't sweat a great deal. Sure, I make sure that I'm drinking a lot of fluid, I'm hydrated before I start. I think that's pretty obvious as a professional athlete. But, you know, again, the only times when I'm in a situation as you guys are watching is sort of Davis Cup. It's twice as hot watching, it really is. I mean, as I said, when I played Corretja, those three minutes, four minutes probably when I was sitting on the side of the court and I had an umbrella, that was worst by a mile of the match. When you're out there, you're moving, you're sweating a little bit, I don't think you're aware of it so much. No, I'm glad - touch wood - I don't struggle in the heat, because you see guy who do, and they cramp. I wouldn't think that's much fun.

Q. Can you imagine what it's like to play dripping wet head to toe like Cliff Richey and Patrick Rafter did, just as if they were under a shower.

TIM HENMAN: Yes, it's tough. I think Medvedev as well, and probably Nalbandian. I think he's probably the guy that sweats the most at the moment. It's tough, I think, to make sure you're keeping your fluid level up when you're sweating that much, must be pretty hard.

Q. Have you ever seized up or cramped?

TIM HENMAN: I had a bad first round US Open a few years ago when I played Jan Vacek. I don't know whether I was actually not very well. Think I drunk -- we worked out and I drunk 19 pints of fluid that day. I think that's sort of too much.

Q. That's a good night out, that.

TIM HENMAN: Yeah. And I remember, we stopped at the beginning of the fifth or something. We had about a 45-minute to an hour's break. I was in the locker room. I was sort of icing my legs down. I think mentally, you know, I thought, "Yeah, I'm much better." I was ready to go. We got the nod we were playing in 10 minutes' time. I got off the bed, and I thought, "Here we go." Quick stretch. As I pulled my leg up, I had a full cramp. It was a bit disconcerting knowing I had a set to go. But, touch wood, I haven't struggled as badly as some.

Q. In overall terms, do you think this is the fittest you've ever been?

TIM HENMAN: I think I've always been fit, but I think I'm much stronger. You know, I look back, I certainly would have wished to avoid having the shoulder trouble that I've had. But certainly I think that process I've gone through and now, you know, lifting a lot more weights away from tournaments, doing those types of things, I think it benefits me now because I do feel, you know, much, much stronger. And, you know, hindsight is a great thing, isn't it? But it's something I'm much more aware of now and benefit from it from, you know, being stronger.

Q. Even when you lost to Roddick in New York, you always seemed comfortable against him.

TIM HENMAN: Yeah. Again, I do. I think my game matches up well against him. I've watched that match, a video of that match. If you just look at the way I was serving, you know, that was when I talked about I was so sideways, my back foot was the long ways round. I wasn't getting anything on the serve. But still I felt like I was, you know, in there, I was competing pretty well. You look at his strengths. You know, obviously his serve. I feel, as today, it's almost like I volley from the baseline. I'm quick enough to get a lot of balls back. That's something you need to do against Roddick. Escude, on the other hand, I haven't done that very well. Yeah, I'll be interested to see, you know, who comes through that. I wouldn't be surprised if Escude gives him some trouble because, you know, he's aggressive, you know, serves well. I think that's a good combination to try to unsettle him.

Q. Would you rather play Roddick because of the nature of Escude's game?

TIM HENMAN: No. I think, you know, against somebody of Roddick's caliber, you could play well, and he could play better and beat you. But, you know, Escude he's had a pretty good start to the year. Again, as I've tried to state, and that's probably one of the aspects that Paul has changed in me a little bit, is just worrying about my own game. I do feel really good about it. Again, whoever I play, I want to, you know, make sure that I play the way that I'm capable of. If I do that and I lose, then that's the way it goes.

Q. Why has Escude given you so much trouble in the past?

TIM HENMAN: I think he's at times, on the days of the matches when we've played, he's done what I've tried to do better than me. When I played him 12 months ago in Miami, I've come a long way since then, put it that way (smiling). You know, there was nothing to my game then. I was serving horrendously. I was just letting him, you know, dictate the match. When you give an attacking player the opportunity to play... It's a lot of fun for him.

Q. Haven't seen him much in competition, but a word about Jonny Marray's promotion to the Davis Cup squad?

TIM HENMAN: Yeah, it's great. I think he thoroughly deserves it. I haven't seen him play, but you just look at the results that he's compiled, and it's really been -- it's on a consistent basis. I think that's an area that I think David's very aware of, and David made me aware of when I was starting at that age, you've got to get out there and compete, whether it's singles or doubles, whether it's ratings tournaments, futures, challengers. You know, he's played a hell of a lot of matches. I think he was joint first on the circuit in singles, which obviously speaks for itself. Did they win all four weeks of the doubles?

Q. Yes.

TIM HENMAN: Which is incredible. Then backs it up at the next level. He did well in the challenger. So I think thoroughly deserved. I'm sure then when he comes into an environment which is a step up again, I think it will be a really valuable learning curve. Yeah, I'm excited.

Q. Do you think it's a good signal for the rest, "If you get your attitude right, your game right, you can get into the picture"?

TIM HENMAN: Absolutely. It's just reward, I think. Just when I was practicing at Queen's the end of last year, beginning of this year, after Australia, there's a really good feel-good factor about the group of players that are working. You know, we've got to see the results progress a hell of a lot further, but I think it's a great platform. You know, the ones that have needed to improve their attitude I think have. You know, the other ones that are struggling a little bit, then they've got a decision to make. They'll look at the others and think, "They're working really hard and having some success." They have to make a decision. If they don't want to, that's fine. It's not the LTA's loss, it's the player's loss.

Q. How well do you know him?

TIM HENMAN: I don't know him at all. Yeah, it's exciting to see a new face. Be looking forward.

Q. And an old face back, as well?

TIM HENMAN: Yeah, absolutely. It's going to be good to be back in that environment, a settled environment. You know, we can now look back and kind of -- we can't understand, but we now put two and two together, and you see how much Greg was struggling. It's pretty obvious that it was almost an impossible environment for him to play in, because he was just physically exhausted, physically and mentally exhausted. I'm sure he'll be looking forward to, you know, getting back and playing with a different type of pressure, you know, just out there to compete for his country.

Q. Would you rather not play three days in a row?

TIM HENMAN: Absolutely, yeah. I'd love to. I've always sort of loved to have not played. But we have to see how kind of the match unfolds. But at some stage in a match of this nature - is it a hundred percent on indoor hard court?

Q. Yes.

TIM HENMAN: You know, it's an opportunity. You know, to give Arvind or Jonny Marray a chance. You know, all credit to Arvind, I think he would be the first to admit 18 months ago he had to make some decisions where his game is going to go. He stepped up. His attitude has been markedly improved. The results show. He's inside 150, he's got a lot of opportunities ahead. Perhaps this is a good time for him.

Q. And he's also got to get the Davis Cup monkey off his back?

TIM HENMAN: Absolutely. It's a little unfair, he'd be the first to admit that he had a terrible experience in Davis Cup in his match against Ecuador. But, you know, he's a far better player mentally and physically. He needs an opportunity to, you know, step up to the plate and perform as he definitely can. You know, I think for this tie, we've actually got some options, which is a little unusual.

Q. You've been on both sides of a match like this, where one player dominates the other. During a match like this, is there a point that you feel sympathy, or do you think "How badly can I embarrass this guy?"

TIM HENMAN: You're not trying to embarrass him. You try to win and be as clinical as you can. I can feel as much sympathy as anyone for Wayne now. He had a tough day. He didn't serve as well as he can. You know, he certainly has a lot of positives to take away from it. My mind wandered for a minute or two on my serve, suddenly I lost my serve. To suddenly start feeling sorry for him, it's a bad combination.

Q. Would you be surprised to know that Wayne next week is playing a Tasmanian challenger and the week after the Canberra challenger?

TIM HENMAN: You know, on the outside it looks like a strange scheduling, but you hear the reasons behind it and it's perfectly understandable. He wants to get into Wimbledon. His ranking is 120. With his serve, he doesn't want to miss out playing on grass. The Olympics, I'm sure, is another great goal for him. I think if he still maintains that schedule, it's great for him to be trying to take every opportunity he can.

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