views

Grass is super for Murray's slam chances

TIM HENMAN knows a thing or two about playing on grass, having thrilled the nation in four agonising semi-finals at Wimbledon. So when the former British No1 says the lawns of SW19 will hand an advantage to Andy Murray, his successor as darling of the Centre Court, it is worth taking note.<br /><br />World No3 Murray has traditionally thrived on harder surfaces, winning the US Open junior title and reaching his only Grand Slam final at the same event last year. But Henman believes the gutsy 22-year-old is better equipped to flourish on grass than the bulk of his rivals when Wimbledon gets underway on Monday. <br /><br />&ldquo;I think grass is a very good surface for Andy. It&rsquo;s not such a good surface for other players,&rdquo; Henman told City A.M. &ldquo;At the French Open, for instance, there are probably 50 guys who realistically fancy their chances &ndash; at Wimbledon the number is less but I think Andy is definitely one of them.&rdquo;<br /><br />Success last week at Queen&rsquo;s Club has fuelled rabid expectations he will become the first British man to win Wimbledon for 73 years. Level-headed Henman, however, believes five-time winner Roger Federer and world No1 Rafael Nadal are still the men to beat, despite being past their best and short of fitness respectively.<br /><br />&ldquo;You have to put Federer and Nadal as the top two. Their Grand Slam records are just incredible &ndash; they have 20 between them,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But I think Murray is a very close third. Murray will get many more chances and he&rsquo;s only going to get better. He&rsquo;s got a hell of a chance and I think he could win it, but it&rsquo;s very difficult to bet against Federer.&rdquo;<br /><br />Despite his empty Grand Slam trophy cabinet, the Scot is second favourite with bookmakers to win Wimbledon &ndash; a symptom of Murraymania starting to seize the nation. The hype could surely prove distracting but Henman, who played the tournament 14 times before his retirement in 2007, believes Murray will thrive on it.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s 99 per cent positive and maybe one per cent negative,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I reflect on it and Wimbledon was my favourite tournament. If I could have played on one court my whole career it would have been Centre Court. The support I had was second to none and I absolutely loved it &ndash; I&rsquo;m sure Andy will be exactly the same.&rdquo;<br /><br />While the quasi-religious fervour awaiting Murray may well galvanise him, he will not be the only one eagerly awaiting a trip to the All England Club. Henman says the vast majority of players on the world circuit prize success at Wimbledon above all other tournaments.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the history and tradition, and how much it has meant to former champions,&rdquo; he explains. &ldquo;I reckon if you spoke to the top 100 guys in the world, 80 per cent would say that if they could win one tournament, then it would be Wimbledon.&rdquo;<br /><br />HSBC uses its sponsorships to help young people, education and community. Tim Henman is an ambassador for the HSBC Road to Wimbledon National 14 &amp; Under Challenge. By investing in grass roots tennis, HSBC is supporting a new generation of talent. For more information please visit <br /><br />www.wimbledon.org/roadtowimbledon<br /><br /><strong>SERVE AND VOLLEY </strong>HENMAN ON...<br /><strong>His favourite Wimbledon memory...</strong><br />Beating Roger Federer in 2001 after he had just beaten Pete Sampras.<br /><br /><strong>Federer being past it. Or not...?</strong><br />Federer winning in Paris and getting the 14 slams will give him so much confidence to play without any pressure.<br /><br /><strong>Tournament dark horses...</strong><br />Someone like Ivo Karlovic, who&rsquo;s 6ft 10in and has the most ridiculous serve, is always uncomfortable to play against.<br /><br /><strong>World No4 Novak Djokovic&rsquo;s hopes...</strong><br />He&rsquo;s going to be up there but I feel the top three are the