Great Britain’s fantastic victory over Croatia in the Davis Cup on the 23rd September was slightly overshadowed by the fact that Tim Henman was making his final appearance on a Wimbledon court. After spending the best part of three decades waking up in the morning and reaching instinctively for a tennis racket before the cornflakes, Tim Henman has retired from his tennis career. Golf is bound to play a big part in Henman’s new life, along with the school runs and nappy changing involved in the raising of his three daughters. Henman is a member at Sunningdale, where he plays off a handicap of three.
Great Britain’s best player since Fred Perry bade farewell to his sport in style on Saturday when he partnered Jamie Murray to a four-set doubles win over Croatia which sealed his nation’s return to the Davis Cup World Group. The curtain call to Henman’s illustrious career could hardly have been more fitting. At the venue which yielded four Grand Slam semi-final berths, he began by polishing off Roko Karanusic in straight sets on Friday. As the sun shone and a packed Court One shrieked their approval, Henman and Murray duly wrapped up the match the following day with a thoroughly entertaining 4-6 6-4 7-6 7-5 win over Marin Cilic and Lovro Zovko. Henman said he could not have wished for a better send-off in front of the kind of raucous red, white and blue home crowd with which he had become so accustomed over his 13-year world-class career.
Always Britain’s hope for a Wimbledon title, at every twist and turn the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and the ATP Tour seemed to conspire against him. A consumate attacker with a solid serve and volley game, Tim was perfectly suited to grass-court tennis. The slowing of the grass, the deadening of the balls and the rules changes to favor baseline play made it harder for Henman to go as far and be as competitive as he became. In the one year where it looked like Tim would go all the way, the AELTC and the ATP provided Goran Ivanisevic with a wild-card entry, one usually provided to a much lower ranked, untested Brit. He and Tim went on to play one of the all-time great matches, going three days and five sets in favour of Ivanisevic who went on to win Wimbledon that year. Had the AELTC only chosen a different wild card — but perhaps that’s no more than wishful thinking. But for all the crictism Tim has had, we must remember that he has made 5 Grand Slam Semi Finals in his career and 4 of those all at Wimbledon where he lost to the eventual winner each time, Sampras twice, Ivanisevic, Hewitt. If we didn’t have Tim Henman for the last decade then we wouldn’t have anyone and that’s a fact. Henman passes the torch of Britain’s best hope to Andy Murray, and with it Henman Hill will become Murray Mound. No-one in the modern era has represented Britain better than Henman.