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TENNIS: The grass too green as Henman struggles for touch; Tim teeters on the edge.

Byline: MARK STANIFORTH

TIM HENMAN fought back from the brink of defeat in the Stella Artois Championships yesterday and suggested London's slower grass courts were hampering his chances of claiming that elusive first Wimbledon crown.

Henman struggled to assert his normally strong service game and did not convince that a Grand Slam triumph is imminent during his 3-6 6-3 7-6 win over Italian Davide Sanguinetti.

Only a wayward backhand from the Italian in the 12th game of the final set saved the British No 1 from an ignominious exit from a tournament in which he has reached the final three times.

Henman subscribes to a general consensus that the game has been slowed down too much,particularly on grass where baseliners like Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian have come to the fore.

Henman said: ``I felt with the way I'd been playing in Paris in the last few weeks I could really play aggressively and serve and volley all the time.

``Realistically that is not going to be the best tactic. You go back a few years and game plans on grass didn't really come into it. It's making life a lot harder that is for sure.

``Looking at the way grass court tennis is now and the results of the last few years there are a few people posing the question of whether it has been slowed down too much.''

Henman looked far from happy in the first set as he lost his serve twice against the Italian, a former Queen's semi-finalist who has also reached the last eight at Wimbledon.

Henman capitalised on a solitary break point in the second set to regain control but blew his break in the first game of the decider.

Another backhand return gave Sanguinetti the important break back and he moved one point from victory after a series of Henman errors.

But the home favourite was determined not to lose his lifeline and powered through the decisive tie-break 7-3 to move into a third round meeting with either Max Mirnyi or Cyril Saulnier.

Alex Bogdanovic is still sweating on a Wimbledon w ildcard after beating British rival Arvind Parmar for his first ever ATP Tour victory.

The 19-year-old reached the final in the Surbiton Challenger last week but as a result of his success he had to play a wild card play-off on the same day as his final defeat.

Not surprisingly a tired Bogdanovic lost and so strictly speaking he blew his chances of a Wimbledon place unless he comes through qualifying next week.

But it is almost inconceivable that he will not be handed one of the four remaining wild cards after his tough 6-7 6-4 7-6 success.

Bogdanovic insisted he was looking forward to playing next week's Wimbledon qualifiers if the need arose.

He said: ``I think it was very good decision to have the wild card play-offs because it put you in a position where you really had to compete.''

CAPTION(S):

Tim Henman in action at the Queen's Club as he defeated Davide Sanguinetti
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 11, 2003
Words:507
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