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Henman triumphs in epic encounter

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LONDON, England -- Tim Henman survived a battle of wills at Wimbledon on Tuesday, completing an epic 6-3 1-6 5-7 6-2 13-11 victory over Spain's Carlo Moya.

The 32-year-old former golden boy of British tennis and four-times semifinalist at the All England Club, rolled back the years to win a gripping contest that had resumed at 5-5 in the decider after bad light stopped play on Monday.

Moya, the 25th seed, had staved off four match points on Monday after himself leading 4-2 in the decider but he finally cracked, serving a double fault to end a match that lasted three hours 41 minutes.

The final set alone spanned nearly two hours.

"I think it sort of speaks volumes the way that we both came out and really continued where we left off," Henman, who had managed just two Tour wins this year, told reporters.

"It's been well documented that my form hasn't been good coming in. But this place is so special to me. I've had so many experiences here over the years. I always believe that good things are going to happen."

Henman's barren spell meant he slipped to 74th in the rankings but he showed against Moya that he was still one of the world's best exponents of grasscourt tennis.

Both men played superb tennis in the 14 games on Tuesday. Drop volleys, angled passes and subtle approaches were a delight for the traditionalists who often lament the lack of touch and finesse in modern tennis.

Henman conjured two aces, one a second serve, to escape from break points at 11-11 and Moya saved two more match points in the following game as tension soared.

It was Moya who finally cracked, wafting a second serve out to bring the 112-minute fifth set to a close and spark scenes of joy on the nearby Henman Hill.

"It would have been pretty sweet to finish it off last night. But I think now, having gone through that, playing as well as I did, perhaps this scenario is even better," Henman said.

Henman will take on another Spaniard, Feliciano Lopez in the second round after Lopez beat British wildcard Joshua Goodall.

French affair

Frenchman Nicolas Mahut's successful grasscourt season got even better on Tuesday when he beat compatriot Arnaud Clement 6-3 3-6 7-6 6-4 in the first round.

The 25-year-old was runner-up to Roddick at the Queen's Club earlier this month but had to come through the qualifying rounds to reach the main draw of the grand slam.

Ranked 77 in the world, he showed little sign of fatigue while he breezed through the first set against the world number 34.

Clement, also beaten by Mahut in the Queen's Club semifinals, fought back to take the second set before Mahut sealed the third set tiebreak 7-5.

Mahut booked his place in the second round with his 16th ace of the match.

Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, the first Pakistani to play in the Wimbledon men's singles in 31 years, beat Briton Lee Childs 6-3 6-4 7-6 in the first round.

Next up for Qureshi will be the Russian former number one Marat Safin.

Qureshi, mobbed afterwards by Asian fans clamoring for photos and autographs, told Reuters: "From the first point I decided to be aggressive. The main thing I was worried about was how to handle the pressure at Wimbledon."

Haroon Rahim was the last Pakistani to reach the second round here, in 1975 and 1976.

He may be ranked only 279 in the world but Qureshi's confidence was high when he upset Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the Halle grasscourt tournament earlier this month and then fought through Wimbledon's qualifying rounds.

"I was very loose and relaxed on court today," he said. "I don't think Lee expected me to come out today so pumped up and fired up."

The 27-year-old from Lahore, whose mother was a national tennis champion, said "I am living my dream. Ever since I started playing, I wanted to play Wimbledon."

"My mum took me to the tennis courts one day when I was 14. That is when I started playing tennis."

From January 1 this year he has been writing every day in his diary: "I am going to qualify for Wimbledon."

Qureshi had failed three times before in his bid to get into the main draw but said: "I always believed I could play with the big boys. Qualifying for Wimbledon has changed my life."

So did his doubles partnership with Israel's Amir Hadad, which in 2003 won them a humanitarian award from the organizers of men's tennis.

"During a summer when fear and hatred garnered much of the headlines, Amir and Aisam-ul-Haq provided much needed relief with their simple message about tolerance through tennis," former ATP chief Mark Miles said.

Thumbs-up from Henman after his epic first round win at Wimbledon.

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