Tim Henman tiptoed into the second week of Wimbledon on Saturday, surviving a host of gut-wrenching moments in a jittery 7-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-1 third round win over Wayne Ferreira.
The Briton did just enough to keep alive his dreams at the tournament he holds most dear, but was far from impressive against the 30-year-old South African on Centre Court.
“It was so close it could have gone either way … I was down in both tiebreaks but I just kept fighting and I can take a lot of satisfaction from that,” a relieved Henman said afterwards.
Women’s defending champion Venus Williams also looked below par in her 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Canada’s Maureen Drake on Saturday.
But top seed Lleyton Hewitt goes from strength to strength, pulverising Austrian Julian Knowle 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.
“I just tried to be more aggressive than my last match,” the Australian said. “It worked well.
“I am one of the highest seeds at the slams now and I feel I have the experience on my side now.”
Henman joins Greg Rusedski in the fourth round as both men bid to become the first British men’s champion in 66 years.
Fourth-seeded Henman and Hewitt are the only top 16 seeds remaining in the draw — the lowest number since seeding was introduced in 1927 — and are scheduled to meet in the semi-finals. Britsh flag U.S. Open champion and world number one Hewitt, who never gave Knowle a look in on Centre Court, next meets Mikhail Youzhny, the man who ousted Hewitt’s bogey-man and 16th seeded Frenchman Nicolas Escude 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Michel Kratochvil ended Czech qualifier Radek Stepanek’s hopes, ousting him 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 to earn a fourth round clash with Henman.
In other top-half action, Andre Sa beat Flavio Saretta 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 in an all Brazilian clash and plays Feliciano Lopez next after the Spaniard beat 17th seed Rainer Schuettler 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 6-4.
While Henman and Rusedski carry the British flag into week two, the home nation’s remaining woman, Elena Baltacha, bowed out.
The wildcard put up a brave struggle but was overcome by Elena Likhovtseva 6-4, 7-6.
“I’ve had a brilliant week … I’ve learned a lot. It has given me a real boost for the future.”
Former champion Conchita Martinez slumped out, losing to doubles specialist and 16th seed Lisa Raymond 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. Henman Hill ‘Henman Hill’ inside the All England Club was again heaving with flag waving fans, but Henman gave them several uneasy moments before securing the win.
His form swung from brilliant to desperate and back again in a match that contained inspired shot-making and flabby errors almost in equal numbers. Henman’s determination was never in doubt, but it takes more than a clenched fist to win Wimbledon and the 27-year-old must tighten up his game if he is to avoid more second week disappointment.
“This is Wimbledon. It is never easy. The competition here is so tough that you have to fight,” he said.
“I hope it’s not getting boring but the crowd gave me a huge lift again. There’s plenty for me to build on in the second week.”
Williams, watched closely by sister and second seed Serena, was sluggish and slow in the opening set but soon stepped it up against the Canadian Drake.
Clearly furious at losing the first set, Williams unleashed her full armoury on the unsuspecting 31 year-old. The tall American punished her for her temerity with a brutal display in sets two and three and next faces compatriot and 16th seed Lisa Raymond in the last 16.