Mumbai: Tim Henman – England’s brightest hope on grass before Andy Murray — never won a Grand Slam but the elder statesman stands out among legends. Henman is one of those English athletes, after Roger Taylor, who preferred rackets to cricket bats, football.
The former Great Britain No 1 and World No 4, who reached six Grand Slam semifinals and won 15 ATP titles, is now in India to scout talent, boost junior players under the campaign ‘Road To Wimbledon’.
In between tennis clinics, Henman spent few minutes with this correspondent. Excerpts…
You’ve known India for more than 20 years, the infrastructure looks better now, isn’t it?
I first came to India in 1994 (Practennis court, Andheri West, Mumbai) where I won a satellite tournament. Those days, facilities were basic. There have been investments and it is better. India is a big country and to make the sport accessible, you need courts in every area.
How much do you see International Tennis Premiere League helping Indian tennis?
If you have the best players in the world coming to play in your country, it can only be a good thing. It drew attention and brought more spectators. Road To Wimbledon is trying to get more and more young kids to take up the sport.
Sania Mirza-Martina Hingis have been on an unbeaten run (36 matches). Did you catch the action?
I have not seen their matches but I did follow the results. But what I would like to see in Indian tennis is a superstar in singles. Singles is where the best of the best players in the world play. If India have a top 10 player in singles, it will be good for the entire tennis world.
The first Grand Slam in 2015 (Australian Open) was hit by match-fixing accusations, your thoughts?
There is a lot of speculation. They have gone back 10 years looking at things. We need an investigation to understand if anything is going, if there has, it is a crime in any form and there is no place for that in any sport. It is important for the young players to understand the dangers so they never get involved in it. It is terrible for any sport.
Novak Djokovic is playing the best tennis of his life, do you see him overtaking Roger Federer in the long run?
He is interesting and I am going to watch him closely. Now at 11 Grand Slams, he has Pete Sampras and Rafael Nadal on 14 before reaching Federer’s 17. But the way he is playing, I see him winning many more. He is so consistent, his game is athletic.
Federer has not been able to push it to the next level recently, is it time for him to go?
Not at all, he should continue. He is a problem for players like Djokovic. See, he is playing well. Even Andy Murray is also in his highest ranking (World No 2) but the problem is Djokovic who is playing better. They have to keep working hard and keep improving, try to find ways to make life difficult for Djokovic.
Federer recently had a knee injury but up till then, he had very few injuries. He is 34 but very fit. He made the finals of Wimbledon and US Open, why should he retire?
Even Leander Paes is going great guns at 42…
He is only playing doubles, it is totally different. You can’t compare.
What would be your best memories at Wimbledon?
I started watching the game at the age of six. When I first played on Centre Court, it was special. I played Federer 13 times in my career. I loved playing against him and Sampras – the best in the business. I still know them very well. The times spent travelling, training, dinner in the evening – it will remain special.
How did you handle the pressure of being one of the few Brits with the tennis racket?
It was never pressure, it was massive excitement and the support I had on the court was incredible. If I could play my whole career on one court, it would be the Centre Court.
Video Courtesy: Wriddhaayan/ Deccan Chronicle - Sport
Video Courtesy: Wimbledon