Changing of the guard

It had to happen sooner or later. Rising star Andrew Murray, in his first season as a tennis professional, faced his boyhood idol and lone flag-bearer of the British game over the last decade, Tim Henman, across the net. The scene, which many observers expected to define the future of the sport in the UK for many years to come, finally came to pass in the first round of the ATP Davidoff Swiss Indoors Masters. Both the 18-year-old wild card entry and the 31-year-old seed looked apprehensive coming on court, the weight of anticipation lying heavily on their shoulders. A multitude of unforced errors saw Henman quickly lose the first set 6-2. In the second, Murray faltered serving for the match at 5-4, leaving the door open for “Gentleman Tim” to draw level by taking the set 7-5. Inevitably, the final rite of passage went to a tie-break, Murray changing gears to power to victory. The teenager then burst into tears.

On paper, the showdown was close offering up hope that Henman can continue to compete at this level. In reality, the British number one should consider retiring gracefully. The sense of occasion got to Murray, leading to a performance way below par, accentuated by countless ineffective balls tamely played into the middle of the court. Henman could and should have blown the hesitant teenager away. He didn’t. Murray will soon challenge Federer and Nadal at the top of the game. Henman can be equally successful – on the senior tour.