The injury, which flared up again last Saturday during Henman's defeat by Julian Alonso, a Spanish qualifier, in his opening match at the Lipton Championships here, jeopardises Britain's chances of qualifying for a play-off for the World Group of the Davis Cup in September.
It is hoped that Greg Rusedski, Britain's No 2, will recover from a wrist injury in time for next week's Euro/African Zone tie against Zimbabwe at Crystal Palace. In Henman's absence, Jamie Delgado has been added to the British squad, which also includes Rusedski, Andrew Richardson, Mark Petchey and Neil Broad, the doubles specialist. The captain, David Lloyd, is not required to announce his final selection until an hour before the draw next Thursday.
Henman's status as tennis royalty was underlined by a medical bulletin issued by the Lawn Tennis Association which might have come from Buck House. "Henman underwent arthroscopic surgery at 9.15 pm last night at St John and St Elizabeth Hospital, St John's Wood, to remove loose bodies [small pieces of bone] from his elbow joint. Leading surgeons, both specialists in upper limb surgery, Mr Paul Calvert [St George's Hospital, Tooting] and Mr Roger Emery [St Mary's Hospital, Paddington] conducted a successful operation which took around an hour and a half to complete.''
Dr Michael Turner, the LTA's chief medical adviser, said Henman was expected to start practising again in approximately six weeks time in preparation for the French Open.
Henman had been troubled by the elbow periodically since taking a tumble as an 11-year-old. "Obviously I am very disappointed to be missing next week's Davis Cup tie, but I still feel that are in a strong position to win.''
Rusedski, fitness permitting, will relish an opportunity to shoulder the bulk of responsibility for Briton's fortunes, as he did when a virus ruled Henman out of the tie against Slovenia at Newcastle last May. Byron Black, Zimbabwe's leading player, has said that his team fear Rusedski's powerful serve more than Henman's all-round game.
Henman's last major injury occurred in Singapore in September, 1994, when his leg was broken during a match against his compatriot Chris Wilkinson.
After a five-month absence, Henman returned and began a run of success that enabled him to become the first Briton to reach the Wimbledon men's singles quarter-finals since Roger Taylor in 1973.
Henman's world ranking has been as high as No 14, and last week here he was voted the ATP Tour's Most Improved Player Award for 1996. So far this year he has competed in three finals, winning his first ATP Tour title in Sydney in January.
Pete Sampras had a walk-over to the semi-finals yesterday. His German opponent, Hendrik Dreekman, sprained an ankle on a speed bump in the road on his way back to his hotel after dinner the previous night.
Jana Novotna created hazards for herself en route to the last four of the women's singles. Twice broken when serving for the match against Iva Majoli, Novotna required three match points in the tie-break to win, 6- 2, 3-6, 7-6 (9-7).Reuse content