Tim Henman believes he will leave the Middle East in a much better state both mentally and physically, despite his straight-sets defeat to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Open.

Henman staged a brave effort against the world No 2 but after losing the first set in a tie-break he was crushed 6-1 in the second by the irrepressible Spaniard.

The British No 3 admitted he missed his opportunity in the first set when his eagerness to shorten the points by attacking the net seemed to catch Nadal off guard.

"I was playing the better tennis at the start of the match and dictating the play, and when you get those opportunities you've got to try and take them," said Henman, who was this week deposed as British No 1 by Andy Murray.

Henman knew his chance would be over should Nadal be allowed to dictate the game from the baseline and his varied approach earned him three break points in Nadal's first service game.

However, Henman was unable to take those opportunities and Nadal's confidence grew as the set wore on.

He was sensational in the tie-break, serving with venom and smashing passing shots past the advancing Henman.

But the 31-year-old, who defeated Feliciano Lopez and Radek Stepanek to reach the last eight, said the week had been hugely beneficial following his difficult start to the year.

Henman crashed out of the Australian Open at the first round stage and was contemplating retirement in a newspaper article at the weekend. But he showed against Nadal that he still has the game to test the very best in the world.

More importantly, his battered body stood up to three intense examinations, leaving Henman confident about his prospects in 2006.

"It's been a very, very positive week. My back has been excellent and I felt fine on the court," he said.

"I feel frustrated with the outcome, obviously, but in the context of playing the guy ranked two in the world it's a good sign that I'm feeling that way about my game."

The Dubai clash was the first time the pair had met on tour and Nadal admitted Henman's approach was unlike any other player he had face.

"Henman is a difficult opponent and a very, very good player. He hits the ball flat and comes to the net a lot and it was not easy to get used to him," he said.