FOUR-TIME Wimbledon semi-finalist Tim Henman hopes Great Britain can return to the Davis Cup world group with a play-off victory against Croatia this weekend to reignite the nation’s enthusiasm for the competition.
Britain, spearheaded by world No3 Andy Murray, begin three days of action on the clay courts in Umag tomorrow, bidding to end their five-year absence from the team competition’s top table.
And Henman, whose final match as a professional came in a victorious Davis Cup tie against the same opposition in 2007, believes Britain can come out on top and begin to recreate his own positive experiences with new hero Murray leading the charge.
“Britain has a great chance to win this tie and get to the World Group,” he said.
“Then you can start thinking about a chance to play in big arenas in the UK if we get there and draw a home tie – maybe in the National Indoor Arena [in Birmingham] the way that we did.
“They were some of the most amazing experiences of my tennis career. The atmosphere was electric and the whole country was watching. That would be something really big for Andy as well.
“It could be very exciting but there’s a long way to go.”
Partnering reigning Wimbledon champion Murray will be ever-improving Dan Evans, Davis Cup-regular James Ward and doubles specialist Colin Fleming.
Croatia, meanwhile, have a depleted quartet with Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic missing, leaving this year’s Wimbledon doubles finalist Ivan Dodig alongside three players outside the world’s top 200, including 16-year-old Borna Coric.
Despite the superior rankings of the British players, Henman recalls difficulties he encountered playing in the same team as Greg Rusedski when both were among the world’s top 10 and failed to win a world group match.
And the 39-year-old has warned the current British quartet, captained by Leon Smith, not to expect an easy ride.
“The Davis Cup world group is a fantastic thing to aim for, and we have a real chance of making it, but it’s a very difficult competition to do well in,” added the Olympic doubles silver medal winner.
“You see how hard it is when you think how we had Greg Rusedski and myself and we didn’t have it all our own way.
“It’s great to see what Dan Evans has done. I watched his matches at the US Open and he played some really good tennis.
“I’m pleased for Dan himself because the penny is finally dropping.
“He’s got that ability and it’s important that he now utilises it.”
Tim Henman will compete in the Statoil Masters Tennis with John McEnroe, Goran Ivanisevic, Stefan Edberg and Pat Rafter at the Royal Albert Hall, 4-8 December. Hospitality packages are available from £179. Call: 020 8233 5854 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information:www.statoilmasterstennis.com