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Absentee Tim Henman drops Davis Cup squad a line

Britain’s Davis Cup squad, who are here training for a seemingly impossible task against Australia this weekend, have received a message of encouragement from injured absentee Tim Henman.

The British No. 1, whose heroic effort against Thailand last September, when already suffering from his shoulder injury, is the main reason Britain remain in the World Group, telephoned Roger Taylor, the team captain. Taylor said: “He called to see how we were getting on, to say once again how sorry he was that he could not be with us, to wish us well and to reiterate what we’ve been saying in simply hoping the boys do their best.”

Henman, now practising in London after a period of rehabilitation in San Diego, also told Taylor that his right shoulder, on which he had surgery in October, continues to get stronger and that he still hopes to return to the circuit for the ATP tournament in Rotterdam, starting on February 17. Incidentally, there are some in the Australian camp still wondering whether Henman will fly into Sydney at the last minute, like a knight to the rescue of a beleaguered army.

When the teams were announced, John Fitzgerald, the Australia captain, repeatedly pointed out that the rules allowed for the substitution of one player up until the draw took place and that it would “not be the first time in the Cup’s history that something like that had happened”.

But a British team official said: “Although one or two still seem to think that we’re about to pull a fast one, I can assure you we’re not.”

Meanwhile, after a full week of training on the clay courts at the Homebush Olympic Tennis Centre here, the British players — Arvind Parmar, Miles Maclagan, Alex Bogdanovic, Alan Mackin and Lee Childs, plus hitting partners David Brewer and Guy Thomas — On Sunday had their first day off.

A slimline Lindsay Davenport won her third Pan Pacific Open title, beating fellow American Monica Seles 6-7, 6-1, 6-2 in front of a sell-out crowd at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Sunday.

Davenport, the third seed, chasing her first WTA Tour title since October 2001, hit back after losing the first-set tie-break 8-6 to storm through the second set in just 28 minutes.

Dutchman Martin Verkerk won his first ATP main tour title with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 victory over Russia’s Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the final of the Milan indoor event Sunday.

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