FORMER Wimbledon favourite Tim Henman believes Britain’s Andy Murray has made the best start to a year in his career and is second only to world No1 Novak Djokovic in the SW19 running this month.
Murray lost to Djokovic in an epic French Open semi-final on Saturday but has already won his first clay court titles, enjoyed his best Roland Garros and finished second at the Australian Open in 2015.
Henman rates defending champion Djokovic favourite to win Wimbledon again this year despite his defeat to Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s Paris final, but puts Murray at the head of the chasing pack.
“I would put Murray joint secondfavourite with [Roger] Federer and Wawrinka,” Henman told City A.M.
“Murray’s game in the first six months has been the best start to a year in his career. He is healthy, he’s playing the right way, he’s been very aggressive from the back of the court and that bodes well for the grass.
“His schedule has been very good. He looked very fresh in Paris, even getting through to the semis and that long match with Djokovic.
“He is really stepping up and dictating. He’s being proactive, not reactive, and that certainly works on any court, let alone a grass court.”
Wawrinka upset Djokovic to win his second grand slam title at the French Open, providing further evidence that a big four also comprising Federer, Murray and Rafael Nadal no longer monopolises men’s Majors.
“The big four was fascinating to watch because they were so consistent at dominating the big events. But there’s no way you cannot include Wawrinka in those sort of conversations now,” Henman added.
“Nadal has been struggling with his confidence and hasn’t played as well this year. When you come onto grass you’ve got to look at [Jo-Wilfried] Tsonga and [Tomas] Berdych – they’ve both been there or thereabouts at Wimbledon – and I think [Milos] Raonic with his serve is just a nightmare to play against.
“Wawrinka’s performance [at Roland Garros] was incredible to watch. He’s always had a massive amount of ability and he’d won a slam before, but to see him play that way – to be so destructive against someone like Djokovic, who’s playing the best tennis of his life as consistently as probably anyone’s ever played – and to do it in a slam final is what impressed me the most.”
Henman, 40, is set to play alongside Wawrinka at the BNP Paribas Tennis Classic this month, part of a strong line-up for the pre-Wimbledon grass court invitational at London’s Hurlingham Club.
“I don’t play a massive amount these days so when I do play I certainly enjoy it,” he said.
“Being back at Hurlingham is always good fun. It’ll be something I look forward to and fingers crossed a part of my body doesn’t fall off and we can put on a good show.”
Tim will be playing at the BNP Paribas Tennis Classic at The Hurlingham Club, 23-26 June, bnpparibastennisclassic.com
HIGHLIGHTS: BRITISH NO1’S STELLAR 2015
SO CLOSE, SO FAR
Andy Murray raised hopes of ending his Australian Open curse by dispatching Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios and Tomas Berdych on the way to reaching the final for a fourth time in January. However he was beaten by a familiar foe in Novak Djokovic in four sets, becoming the first man to amass a quartet of runner-up finishes in Melbourne.
Having become the first Briton to reach 500 wins in the Open Era and then taken a short break to marry long-time partner Kim Sears, Murray achieved another first in May. His success at the BMW Open in Munich was his first ever on clay and the first on the surface by any Briton since Buster Mottram in 1976.
Murray didn’t wait long to add to his tally of titles on clay, following up his win in Munich with victory at the Madrid Open the very next week. He beat world top-10 rivals in Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori to reach the final where he confirmed his improvement on a previoulsy troublesome surface by defeating the King of Clay himself, Rafael Nadal.
Murray continued his superb form into the French Open, beating Kyrgios, home favourite Jeremy Chardy and clay specialist David Ferrer to reach the semi-finals. There he faced world No1 Novak Djokovic in an epic five-setter that spanned two days due to bad weather. Having battled back from two sets down, Murray eventually succumbed in five sets. Roland Garros remains the only grand slam in which he is yet to make the final.