Tim Henman: Is he about to hush the sneerers at last?

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The Independent Online
Maybe, just maybe this will finally be the moment for Tiger Tim to lift a Grand Slam trophy. Or at least get to a final.</p>Tennis fans across Britain will today be willing Henman to success in his US Open semi-final against Roger Federer.</p>After reaching the last four in the US Open for the first time with his 6-1, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia on Thursday, the British No 1 believes he can test the top seed.</p>He said: "Playing Federer is the toughest task in tennis. But I have nothing to lose. I've beaten him in the past and hopefully I can beat him again."</p>At the age of 30 and after 11 years as a professional tennis player, victory at this stage of his career would be all the sweeter. It would be the ultimate triumph of perseverance if Henman pulls this one off and goes on to win in the final.</p>It would be the perfect two-fingered salute to all those detractors who thought Henman should take WC Fields' advice: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again. Then give up. There's no use being a damned fool about it."</p>And it would rank alongside the dogged determination of those other famously assiduous characters throughout history, from Robert the Bruce and his decisive victory at Bannockburn to Kelly Holmes's double gold at this year's Olympics.</p>Henman has always been the "nearly there" player, keeping his fans on the edge of their seats with flashes of brilliance and true grit spirit. But his patchy play has often let him down at the last hurdle.</p>He had never reached a Grand Slam semi-final outside Wimbledon before this year, but has now done so at both the US and French Opens.</p>If he manages to beat Federer, Henman will have to play either the Aussie No 4 seed, Lleyton Hewitt, or Sweden's Joachim Johansson.</p>Even the bookies are feeling pretty positive. William Hill have put the odds at 11/4 for Henman to get past Federer (the 1/4 favourite for the match) and 9/1 to go on to lift the trophy.</p>IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED ...</b></p>ROBERT THE BRUCE</b></p>The legend of Robert the Bruce watching a spider persevering in its efforts to build a web in the entrance to his cave hideout is known around the world and inspired the maxim: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again."</p>Edward Plantagenet was crowned King of England in 1272 and his ruthlessness earned him the title "Hammer of the Scots". After a Scottish army was trounced in the battle of Falkirk in 1298 and William Wallace was executed in 1305, Bruce is said to have been considering an escape to France.</p>Inspired by the spider's determination to succeed, Bruce spent the following years fighting the English invaders and winning several victories, including at Bannockburn, until the Declaration of Independence was signed at Arbroath in 1328. He died a year later.</p>JAMES DYSON</b></p>The inventor's autobiography is suitably entitled Against the Odds. Having set his mind in 1978 to creating a bagless vacuum cleaner, he spent more than five years creating 5,127 prototypes before he came up with the version that eventually broke the back of Hoover's stranglehold on the British market.</p>However, his invention was initially turned down, one by one, by major manufacturers. The vacuum was nearly never made due to patent fees and legal costs incurred defending his invention against a US corporation. Finally, he decided to set up a production line himself. In June 1993 he opened a factory near his home in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, and in less than two years the Dyson Cyclone became Britain's best-selling vacuum.</p>JOHN HARRISON</b></p>The Yorkshireman's dedication to the task of creating the world's first successful maritime clock was immortalised in Dava Sobel's 1996 bestselling bookLongitude.</p>Harrison came to London in 1728 and started to build several spring-driven clocks, finally succeeding in 1761 with a determination of better than half a degree - accurate enough to allow the determination of longitude over long distances.</p>However it took the horologist more than 40 years of refining his design and eventually required the intervention of King George III himself before the Board of Longitude awarded him their prize for achieving this. The Board had refused to believe that longitude could be determined without astronomical measures.</p>KELLY HOLMES</b></p>At this year's Athens Olympics, Kelly Holmes dramatically realised the talent which she had nurtured from the age of 13 when she claimed gold in both the 800m and 1,500m competitions.</p>But over the years her undoubted talent has been pegged back by injury - a stress fracture at the 1996 Olympics and an Achilles tendon rupture just as she seemed ready to claim the 1997 world title.</p>But her run of bad luck came to an end in Athens this year and the 34-year-old from Kent secured two gold medals. As her idol Sebastian Coe pointed out, it was a middle-distance double that no other Briton could match since Albert Hill, a 31-year-old First World War veteran, won two titles in the 1920 Antwerp Games.</p>NIGEL MANSELL</b></p>Nigel Mansell was given the nickname "Il Leone" (The Lion) by his Ferrari team-mates for his aggressive overtaking moves and determination.</p>He was first brought into Formula 1 by the legendary Lotus boss Colin Chapman in the 1980 season. But in his debut race at the Austrian Grand Prix his engine blew and he was forced to retire. Mansell's early years with Lotus and Williams were a learning period in which he learnt the traditional way... by mistakes. In 1986 a high-speed blow-out at Adelaide with just seven laps to go forced him out of the championship. The following year he had a huge crash in a practice. But, at the age of 48, Mansell finally won a Formula 1 driving championship with the Williams team.</p>MARY WESLEY</b></p>Mary Wesley, author of The Camomile Lawn, was a paragon of perseverance, having her first novel published when she was 70.</p>Born Mary Aline Mynors Farmar in Berkshire in 1912, Wesley worked for the War Office during the Second World War. She wrote two children's books in 1969, but a year later she was left almost penniless after the death of her second husband, the journalist Eric Siepmann. She struggled until her first novel, Jumping the Queue, was published in 1983. A year later came The Camomile Lawn. She said: "I have no patience with people who grow old at 60 just because they are entitled to a bus pass. Sixty should be the time to start something new, not put your feet up." She died in 2002, aged 90. </p>