Henman: Andy Murray’s looking handy in title assault

NO SWEAT: Andy Murray is yet to drop a set this year at Wimbledon
NO SWEAT: Andy Murray is yet to drop a set this year at Wimbledon
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Andy murray has grown from boy to man to champion on SW19’s lawns, now he’s primed and ready to secure his place in the pantheon of Wimbledon greats.

Winning at the All England Club is not easy, as any British tennis fan knows, but retaining the title is something else. Only legends Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer achieving the feat in the last 40 years.

But Murray was peerless and relentless in his march through the opening week. There has been a ruthless inevitability to three straight sets and straightforward wins and one should confidently predict more of the same as he prepares to take on South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in the fourth round. Former British No.1 Tim Henman is confident the Scot will have the tools to progress with ease to the quarter-finals, edging one step closer to a probable semi-final with top seed Novak Djokovic.

“Anderson is a good player but the best weapon is his serve and Andy’s return is as good as anyone in the game, so he won’t be fearing anything,” said Henman, who is an ambassador for HSBC, sponsor of the HSBC Road to Wimbledon National 14 & Under Challenge, the UK’s largest national junior grass court tournament.

“Once they get into baseline rallies, I can only see one winner. In the slams, you have to look at it as two different tournaments – the first week and the second week, especially when you are considered acontender.

“The first week you just need to feel your way into the tournament and get through, ideally conserving as much energy as possible.

“Murray’s had two whole days off. The schedule couldn’t have worked any better. I don’t think he’d change a single thing that has happened so far.”

Four-time semi-finalist Henman used to put his supporters through the full range of emotions in fabled rollercoaster matches at Wimbledon.

In contrast, Murray appeared on virtual cruise control last week – getting his opponents huffing and puffing while barely appearing to break sweat.

“It’s nice to win in three straights sets because you are saving energy but sometimes you come through a five-setter and it’s a boost because you know you canhandle pressure situations. You can’t win Wimbledon in the first week but you can certainly lose it,” added Henman.

“Andy’s played fantastically well and there has been different but really encouraging aspects to all his matches.

“He coped brilliantly with the pressure and tradition of being the defending champion and coming out and opening the tournament. That is not an easy thing to do against a talented opponent.

“He just demolished his second-round opponent and played really well against Bautista Agut, who is having a great year and has established himself in the world’s top 20. He served well, struck the ball cleanly and is playing really aggressive tennis.”

Henman insists he’s got no intention of following former players Amelie Mauresmo, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker into coaching, preferring the life of family man back in the London to living from a suitcase and watching pensively from the players’ box.

But he’s closely involved with HSBC’s Road to Wimbledon, a grass roots under-14s tennis tournament held across the country in three stages, and culminating in the national finals later this month.

Last week, departing LTA coach Julien Hoferlin described British players striving to follow Murray’s lead as ‘spoilt’, claiming they don’t make enough sacrifices to succeed. It’s a familiar refrain, Murray was the only one of six home male players to make the second round.

Some players have even claimed Murray’s successes have made it even harder to succeed, so bright is his star. But Henman gives that argument short shrift.

“The transition from juniors to seniors isn’t easy but we make it look particularly difficult because we don’t develop players for the future,” he added.

“Juniors is just the start of a long journey. We are a bit too obsessed about results at that level.

“We have to develop players for the pro circuit, not developing your game so it just works at junior level.

“Sometimes the emphasis is too much on results at a young age but it’s not about that –it’s about playing your best tennis when you step up to the pros.

“If you are 150th in the world and he’s fourth you’ve got 145 people to catch and you should forget that Andy has Great Britain after his name. This is a global game and everyone is your competitor. I don’t think we need to get too obsessed about nationalities.”

n AS the Official Banking Partner of The Championships, HSBC is helping fans get closer to Wimbledon by giving them the chance to win a coaching clinic with Tim Henman. For further information, visit www.wimbledon.com/hsbc