Henman starts new year on a high

Tim Henman believes yesterday’s win over Richard Gasquet in Doha compares favourably with anything he achieved throughout the whole of last year.

Tim Henman believes yesterday’s win over Richard Gasquet in Doha compares favourably with anything he achieved throughout the whole of last year.

The British number one may have suffered a disappointing 2005 but he started the new year in fine style with a straight sets defeat of French teenager Gasquet.

Henman’s serve-and-volley game was too much for the third seed and the 31-year-old Briton sealed a place in the second round of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open with a 6-4 6-4 success.

Asked if beating Gasquet matched his best exploits of last year, Henman said: “It was as good a performance – but I wouldn’t say there was so much to compare with.”

Henman failed to progress beyond five quarter-final appearances in 2005, spoiling his record of reaching at least one ATP final in each of the previous eight years, and he dropped out of the top 20 for the first time since 1996.

But the omens clearly look batter for this year and he added: “It’s pleasing as I have worked very hard in the last five weeks, although again it is early stages.

“It is a good start but it’s a long, long year. There are hopefully going to be more ups than last year but there are going to be bumps on the road too.

“I just look forward to staying healthy and enjoying my tennis again.”

A solitary break at 2-2 was enough for Henman to take the first set as the Frenchman was unable to find his range from the back of the court.

Gasquet got himself together at the start of the second, breaking Henman for a 2-0 lead only to squander the advantage immediately.

And another Henman break at 3-3 ultimately proved decisive as he booked a second-round date with German Tommy Haas, who beat Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka 5-7 6-2 7-5.

Gasquet was gracious in defeat as he said: “He’s one of the best players in the world and he played really well. He volleyed well and did not give me too much rhythm from the baseline.”

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