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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Henman Ends British Tennis Misery

LONDON -- British tennis was a joke for so long that bookmakers offered shorter odds on aliens landing at Buckingham Palace than on a Brit winning a Grand Slam tournament.

That was before Tim Henman came along.

A sensational start to the 1997 season has established the 22-year-old Henman as the hottest player on the tour and a legitimate contender at the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year.

British bookmakers Ladbrokes on Monday slashed the odds on Henman winning the title to 16-1, down from 66-1 at the start of last week. Henman is now ranked No. 14 in the world, the highest for a British man in 20 years.

"He is playing at the top of his form and with Boris Becker out it seems to us that only Michael Chang provides a major obstacle to Henman reaching his first Grand Slam final," Ladbrokes spokesman Ian Wassell said.

Henman is on course for a third-round match against second-seeded Chang.

"We already face a ?100,000 ($170,000) payout if Henman wins the Australian Open, and I dread to think what it would cost if he were to win Wimbledon," Wassell said.

No British male has won at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.

It was at Wimbledon where Henman made his breakthrough last year by reaching the quarterfinals. He also got to the quarters of the U.S. Open and the semifinals of the Grand Slam Cup.

Before the 1997 season started, Henman said his goals for the year were to win his first ATP Tour title and break into the top 20. It didn't take him long to achieve both.

Henman started the year by reaching his first ATP Tour final in Doha, Qatar, where he lost to Jim Courier. The following week, he won the Sydney International, beating Goran Ivanisevic in the semifinals and Carlos Moya -- the man who ousted Becker -- in the final.

The Sydney victory pushed Henman from No. 24 to No. 14 in the latest tour rankings, the highest for a British player since 1977.

The only Brit to achieve a higher ranking was Roger Taylor, who got to No. 11 in 1973, the year the ATP rankings were introduced.

"The next obvious [goal] is to try to break into the top 10 and that's not going to be easy in itself, but if I can continue with the way I've been playing and my work on and off the court, then hopefully I can do that,'' Henman said Monday.

Henman's rise has been a boon for Britain's tennis writers, who cover the sport around the world but rarely get a chance to report on a British player getting past the first round.

In Monday's Daily Telegraph, tennis correspondent John Parsons wrote that watching Henman win the Sydney International marked a personal milestone. It was the first time in 32 years of traveling around the world, covering tennis, that he had seen a British player capture a men's singles title.awks (6-8), who scored 20 points off five Buffalo turnovers.

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