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The likelihood is that by now Tim Henman has been eliminated at Wimbledon. At the age of 32, he’s likely going to retire soon, and hopefully can leave the sport feeling satisfied with his achievements. One can’t help but wonder, though.
Probably no tennis player in history has occupied a fish bowl the way Henman has. For more than a decade, each move he’s taken during Wimbledon has been assessed as rigorously as the Chinese once inspected the last emperor’s toilet habits.
I’ll never forget a late evening at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells. Henman had won his first round match and the British press gathered around him. The British tennis cadre is articulate and knowledgeable about the sport; but also sadly is confined largely to coverage of no more than one or two quality players. So there it was, the reporters virtually finishing Henman’s sentences, as if engaged in some sort of journalistic séance. It was insightful, humorous and sad to hear Henman asked – this was friggin’ March – about how this match would affect his plans for Wimbledon.
So goes the fate of a man some thought could be the first British male to win the Wimbledon singles title since Fred Perry completed a three-peat in 1936. Just think, the last time this nation had a shot here roughly coincided with a time when its leaders thought Hitler was a man you could negotiate with.
Click Photo: Henman played the game in a way not seen too often in the last decade.
But back to Henman and his tennis. He reached four Wimbledon semifinals, by far the best British effort here since Perry. On all of those occasions, he lost to the eventual winner – twice to Pete Sampras, once each to Lleyton Hewitt and Goran Ivanisevic. Only during the Ivanisevic semi did it seem Henman had a chance to reach the finals. This 2001 match took three days to complete, but when Henman won the third set 6-0 to go up two sets to one, fate at last seemed in his favor. As I see it, Henman was a much more skilled player than Ivanisevic – save for one shot, the serve. And that, as we know, is the most important shot in tennis. Ivanisevic eeked out the fourth set 7-6, and then had enough momentum to earn the fifth, 6-3. It was a crushing blow for Henman. But even had he won, his next opponent would have been a rough one for him too – swashbuckling netrusher Patrick Rafter. Still, who knows how inspired Henman would have been had he had the chance to compete in a final?
The pleasing part of Henman’s tennis was that he played the game in a way not seen too often in the last decade. Henman’s one-handed attacking game was patterned in large part on that of one of his childhood heroes (and later practice partner), Stefan Edberg. At his best, his stick-like body created a pleasing symmetry, an elegant, crisp and attentive mix of movement, sharp blows and tasteful volleys. It was so apparent how well Henman had built his game for Wimbledon’s grass. As is often the case with aggressive players, Henman’s footwork and speed was so good it was undetectable. That quickness was what helped him play some of his best tennis in 2004, when for the first time he reached semis at Roland Garros and the US Open. And in many a match, his appetite for risk would surface nicely too.
Click Photo: Henman’s one-handed attacking game was patterned in large part on that of one of his childhood heroes, Stefan Edberg.
But there were also so many matches where Henman would need to draw on this inner resolve. A playing style that would have been perfect in 1978 was subject to all sorts of incoming heat in Henman’s era of powerful groundstrokes. His forehand and serve were fine opportunity creators, but scarcely bone-crushing or terminal in the way so prevalent in contemporary tennis.
Watching him labor through an early-round struggle once, I imagined Henman as a young student learning the game. No doubt he was exquisitely attentive, well-behaved, willing to absorb the instructor’s directions precisely. Though this did him in good stead on his backhand and volleys, I wish on his serve that he had been a bit less obedient, a bit more willing – ala Andy Roddick – to try things his own way and go at it freestyle. It was even more frustrating to watch him serve during the years he worked with Larry Stefanki. Stefanki is one of the game’s wisest coaches, and in this case he suggested Tim try less for velocity. It wasn’t entirely a bad idea, but I wonder if in some ways being this cautious injected even more repression into Henman’s tennis sensibility.
Never able to rear back and crack an ace or slap a random winner, Henman assembled his victories toothpick-by-toothpick. If you had no emotional stake in his progress, it made the effort enjoyable in victory or defeat. It was also educational: a recreational player could learn volumes from Henman’s patience, variety and opportunism. This was a man who really understood what he could do – and what he couldn’t.
But if you were one of those who dared think he could win Wimbledon, then Henman likely cost you a few fingernails. I always felt sad for those British fans who hung their hopes on Tim but had little knowledge of where he fit into the global tennis scene. In baseball terms, his country so wanted him to be a .320 hitter, a big-time impact player on the order of Sampras. But his tennis results revealed a man who was at heart a .275 hitter who flirted with .300 at Wimbledon – not bad, but not quite the highest echelon. Though in large part Andy Murray has a game far more suited for contemporary tennis – aided in large part by the time he spent honing it in Barcelona – I wonder if indeed he’ll fare as well at Wimbledon as Henman.
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Pro Strokes within the Advanced Foundation
Roger Federer’s game has been analyzed, scrutinized, and even glorified, over the last few years, and for good reason, his forehand is one of the best models for anyone to emulate. It isn’t too extreme or overtly flashy but it is certainly one of the most consistent and penetrating forehands on the tour. Dave Smith examines the Federer forehand and uses it as a model for his daughter Kyla in demonstrating the concept of how a beginner can use pro strokes to establish the principles of a solid foundation.
T1 Super Slow-Mo™ Video - Ana Ivanovic
This 20 year old Serbian just ascended center stage with her fine showing at the recent French Open. She lost to Henin-Hardenne in straight sets (as did everyone else) but notched some fine wins along the way – beating Kuznetsova in the quarters and Sharapova in the semi finals. Ranked 6th in the world, this talented 20 year old has wins over Mauresmo, Petrova, Schnyder, and Hingis. Fluid, graceful, with boundless talent, check out her strokes in T1 Super Slow-Mo™ Video.
Top Ten Training Tips for Conditioning Success
Many people seem to have forgotten that the main objective of every strength training program is to improve performance. If your sport was power lifting, that would mean lifting heavy weights, but because your sport is tennis – that means improving your ability on the court. Paul Gold has seen many players over the years that have the top bench press in the club – but are 0-20 in matches for the season! Here Paul offers his top ten tips to ensure your success.
ProStrokes Gallery - Nikolay Davydenko's Net Game
Nikolay Davydenko is the number one Russian for the second straight year with five ATP titles. He is currently ranked number four in the world and holds wins over nearly all the players in the top ten. Although he is yet to notch a win over Federer, Nadal, or Roddick, his consistency and big game from the baseline makes him a threat in any major tournament. Fit, big topspin off both wings, definitely a baseliner, he may lack the guile of Federer, the huge serve of Roddick, or the baseline smarts of Murray, but he will run and hit with anyone. Check out Davydenko's strokes in the TennisOne Prostrokes Gallery. New This Issue - Davaydenko's Net Game.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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