A verse epistle for Tim Henman

It was National Poetry Week in Britain last week. To mark the occasion, William Scammell composes a verse epistle for Tim Henman in the style of Kipling's 'If', which was last year voted the nation's favourite poem
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England Expects

If you can take the weight of expectation

And use it as a fulcrum for your own,

If you can turn a deaf ear to a nation

Sick to its stomach of the wooden spoon,

If you can win and, "hopefully", as you'd put it,

Go climbing up the ratings, bit by bit,

Perhaps the punters might consent to shut it

And you'll be voted Britain's truest Brit.

Big weapons, Tim! If you can make yours meaner,

Out thunder Boris, when he serves his big bang,

Take Agassi's hairy stomach to the cleaners,

Cry tears with Pete, and pray with Michael Chang;

If you can steal Mac's volley, not his mouth,

And play the all-court game like mighty Rocket,

Cast your eyes up to Fred's eternal truth

(Don't lose!) - We'll all be safely in your pocket.

If you continue tall, dark, handsome, hip,

And, hopefully, wipe out the opposition,

We'll just adore your cool stiff upper lip

And auction you like Elvis, or a Titian.

If you can get their number on the circuit

And handle post-match piss-ups just the same

You'll be the first in many years to crack it:

Gentleman Tim! The glory of our game.

If, and, when, but, the inevitable happens

And you slip down the ranks, get stuffed by the hackers,

Beat up a ball girl, trample on your weapons,

Date Fergie, and get taken to the knackers;

If you can stay a chap, and keep him chappy,

Yet force your heart to go that extra mile,

You'll keep the Wimbledon classes happy-clappy

And, like Rudyard, you'll have made your point - and pile!