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Henman still a threat: Hewitt

Lleyton Hewitt said Tuesday it would be wrong to write off Tim Henman as a potential Wimbledon winner, despite his lack of form since returning to the circuit after shoulder surgery.

“Tim didn’t play his best tennis at Queen’s last week,” the Wimbledon and world champion said, “but I think he can build on his game quite a bit this week.”

Speaking at the All England Club, after the Wimbledon draw had given Henman a sporting chance of at least playing himself into the tournament, Hewitt stressed the Briton’s record at The Championships, where he has been a semi-finalist in four of the past five years, and added: “What he’s done has been pretty impressive.

“Most of the focus is going to be on Tim and a bit on Greg. It’s very much like the situation I’m under going into the Australian Open. ”

The draw means that the highest-ranked player in Henman’s quarter was the ninth-seeded Argentine David Nalbandian, who last year became the first South American finalist since Open tennis began in 1968.

Henman starts against the Spaniard Alex Corretja who, despite his vast experience, has been struggling to rediscover form and has slipped from 19 to 37 in the world rankings, 10 places behind the Oxfordshire player.

Henman said: “Alex is a very experienced competitor as you’d expect in somebody who’s made the French Open final twice and he’s won plenty of titles on hard courts as well as indoors.

Providing the shoulder that was still giving him concern last week in the Queen’s Club meet holds firm, Henman should then account for another Spaniard, David Sanchez, or one of the survivors from this week’s qualifying tournament, in Round II.

By contrast, the draw for all the other British players in the men’s singles is challenging to say the least. Although Greg Rusedski ought not to be troubled by Alexander Waske, the German ranked No 114, in the first round, he will then be expecting to face a shoot-out with Andy Roddick.

Apart from beating Andre Agassi on his way to winning at Queen’s, Roddick also threw down a gauntlet to Rusedski by equalling his world serving record of 149mph.

It will be almost as much a test for the service line-umpires, under scrutiny by an electronic magic eye for the first time, as the players.

Of the wild cards, three play seeds, most notably Jamie Delgado, who has a repeat of his match against Agassi two years ago, when he managed to take nine games off the former champion, who is seeded No 2 this time.

Alex Bogdanovic, ranked 361, will be hoping to sustain his recent fine form when he meets the 61st-ranked Sargis Sargsian, the Armenian who upset Roddick in the first round of the French Open, while Arvind Parmar meets Sjeng Schalken, another big server who is 168 places above him in the rankings.

As for his own prospects Hewitt, who will begin against one qualifier and then face another or a lucky loser after Richard Krajicek’s decision to withdraw with an elbow injury, was upbeat.

The Australian agreed that he had not been hitting the ball as well as he would have liked to at Queen’s, but insisted that in his training since then he had “upped it a notch or two” and felt “pretty good” about his form.

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