Saturday, 22 September 2007

Tim Henman - a British sporting hero

Tim Henman was the best English male tennis player from 1994 until the arrival of Andy Murray, Greg Rusedski in 1997 may be the exception. I remember following tennis in the 1980's and there was very little to cheer other than Annabel Croft's "form". Tim Henman's ATP end of year rankings from 1994 were: 167 95 29 17 7 11 10 9 8 15 6 36 39. During that period he won 11 ATP tournaments, contrary to the "he never won anything" brigade's claims. In the 1980s English tennis players rarely made it the second week at Wimbledon, Tim Henman's Wimbledon record is from 1994 1R 2R QF QF SF SF 4R SF SF QF QF 2R 2R 2R - that's 1996 to 2004 four semi-final losses, four quarter-final losses and just one fourth round loss. You can add to that a French and a US Open semi-final appearance in 2004 and an Olympic silver medal in the men's doubles in 1996. Tim Henman reached the ranking of Number 4 in the world. Tim Henman's serve and volley style was best suited to Wimbledon where he played his best tennis. Two of his four semi-final losses there were to the then world number one, Pete Sampras and another to Lleyton Hewitt, that year the world number one ranked player. He should have beaten Goran Ivanišević in the 2001 semi-final and came within two points of victory before the rain came again and again. In 2003 he took his first and only ATP Masters Series title, winning the Paris Masters against Andrei Pavel. On the way to the final he beat Nikolay Davydenko, Sébastian Grosjean, Gustavo Kuerten, Roger Federer and Andy Roddick and only lost one set in the entire competition.

I get really angry at the insults aimed at Tim Henman for not being angry enough on court and for not winning anything. As I have pointed out above, he won lots and how many tournaments have the overpaid, over hyped English football team won? They seem to make quarter finals and occasional semi finals and yet they are acclaimed as heroes. As to his lack of anger on court, I think he learned his lesson in 1994 when he was disqualified at Wimbledon in 1994 when he hit a ball in a fit of anger during a doubles match, striking a ball girl on the head. The other angle of attack on Time Henman has been his being middle class, an unforgivable offence for many in New Labour Britain. The insults that I have heard aimed at Tim Henman for being a middle class mummies boy would if aimed at a working class footballer have been described as discriminatory. The fun that "The Now Show" have made of Tim Henman and his fans has been nothing short of disgraceful. It seems that in "modern Britain" it is fine to make fun of middle aged, middle class female tennis supporters and to express disgust at their polite queueing and cries of "come on Tim" but at the same time it is not allowed to question too closely the antics of the many shaven headed, thuggish football fans who drunkenly cause more damage every weekend at football matches all over the country.

As Tim Henman wins his last Davis Cup singles match yesterday and today hits the winner, a fabulous cross-court forehand in the doubles against Croatia, thus taking England into the World Group for the first time since 2003 we should salute a great British sporting hero.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I applaud Henman's career. He is definitely an overachiever - getting further in the game then his talent and physique really entitled him.

What embarrasses me (not Tim's fault) is the Henman Hill, Henmania nonsense just because he reached the second week of Wimbledon.

The UK is a country of 60m people. It is pathetic that someone reaching Week 2 of Wimbledon should trigger such scenes.

"Little" countries like Croatia, Czech Republic seem to be able to do this regularly without the fanfare.

The UK winters are no excuse either - Sweden (where the winters are much harsher) nurtured Borg, Edberg, Wilander to Grand Slam victories and Davis Cup triumphs. Switzerland has Hingis and Federer.

Happy retirement Tim - but I won't miss the Henmania rubbish.