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Ask any British person about Tim Henman, and they’ll no doubt tell you he’s one of the most frustrating tennis players the United Kingdom has ever produced. “Tiger” Tim built a reputation for being an underdog that the British public would get behind, even if he did end up disappointing the masses year after year.
Watching matches of Tim Henman back and you realise just how good he actually was. The highest rank he reached in his career was as world number four in 2002, and it’s a shame that his career never brought about a Grand Slam title, let alone a Wimbledon title.
Someone who has won multiple titles for the UK is Andy Murray and in Wimbledon 2019 odds, the Scot is priced at 33/1, mostly down to the fact that he has only just returned to action after a hip operation. Murray will always be remembered as the first British male to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry back in 1936, but it is Henman who will always be better received. Let’s take a look at why this is.
Loving an underdog
If there’s one thing the British love, it’s an underdog, and if there is one thing Tim Henman became during his career, it was an exactly that. Each time he took to the court, British fans were expecting him to lose, but showed their delight when he won and acceptance when he lost.
For two weeks every summer, Henman was the beacon of hope for a nation that was desperate to have a champion at their home event. It was never to be for Henman, but that didn’t stop the British public from loving him. He was Britain’s best hope in the men’s game for 50 years and much like the FIFA World Cup, every time Wimbledon rolled around the public believed that each year it was coming home.
Everyone knew that Henman wasn’t the best all-round player, but what he had in his arsenal was volleying. Perhaps that’s why they loved him. In all departments apart from volleying, he was likely to be the underdog, but Britain loves an underdog, and to this day, they still love him. They adore him so much that the small hill within the grounds of Wimbledon where fans gather to watch the action on the big screen is affectionately known as “Henman Hill”. After Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win in 2013, people began to call it “Murray Mound”, but it hasn’t taken off quite like “Henman Hill”.
Tiger Tim was without doubt a semi-final specialist. Not so much winning in semi-finals, but merely reaching them. In fact, in the 16 years he played at Wimbledon, he reached the semi-final on four occasions.
Although he failed to progress on all four occasions, in three of the four games, he was up against the world number one, in 1998 and 1999 it was tennis legend Pete Sampras and in 2002 it was Australian Lleyton Hewitt. His only surprise defeat in the Wimbledon semi-finals was in 2001 against wildcard Goran Ivanisevic.
Heartbreak for Henman
The 2001 Wimbledon semi-final was arguably the most heartbreaking moment in his career, as he came up against wildcard entry Goran Ivanisevic. It was a match that, on paper at least, Henman was the favourite.
Henman defeated future Wimbledon record breaker Roger Federer in the quarter-finals in five sets before coming up against eventual champion Ivanisevic. Tiger Tim was the world number six going into the semi-final match and despite being 2-1 up after three sets, he lost the fourth in a tie-break before losing the final set 6-3.
British fans must have been anticipating Henman reach the final after he stormed to a 6-0 win in the third set to take the lead, but as with all of Henman’s tournament adventures, it ended in cruel disappointment. It was the hope that hurt the fans the most.