Murray was yesterday seeded fourth for the All England Club grand slam but doubts remain over his fitness after a back injury undermined him at the French Open before his shock early exit from Queen’s last week and Henman, a Wimbledon crowd favourite in his prime, believes the men’s scene is presently so strong that the world No4 cannot possibly hope to succeed without truly being at his best.
“It’s not easy if you’ve been in a few finals and you’ve lost them,” Henman, who made the semi-finals at SW19 on four occasions, told City A.M. “But Murray’s
biggest challenge is far more a physical issue than a mental issue. The physical issue of having to beat probably two of [Roger] Federer, [Rafael] Nadal or [Novak] Djokovic in successive matches – that is going to take an incredible performance. Especially when you’re thinking in a grand slam, and it’s the best of five sets. It’s probably the biggest challenge in tennis now.
“He obviously wasn’t 100 per cent healthy [at the French Open] and I’d say his biggest priority now is to make sure his back is 100 per cent for Wimbledon.”
Henman’s own route to grand slam success was ultimately blocked by several greats, initially during the era of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi and then that of Federer, but the Englishman is adamant that, with Wimbledon starting on Monday, overcoming Murray’s rivals – Djokovic, Nadal and Federer, respectively the world’s top three – represents an even greater challenge.
“There’s no doubt that this is probably the toughest era in the men’s game ever,” he said at an HSBC coaching session for youngsters in Islington. “The top three are going to go down as three of the greatest players of all time, and Murray’s up against them. That challenge, if you’re 100 per cent fit and healthy, is tough enough, but if you’re not then I think it’s virtually impossible. Fingers crossed he’s going to be healthy going into Wimbledon.”
Tim Henman is an ambassador for HSBC, Official Banking Partner to the Wimbledon Championships, www.wimbledon.com/hsbc