As Tim Henman heads for retirement, key figures in his career discuss their memories of a quintessential Englishman

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The Independent Online

Caroline Hall, ball girl

"It happened in the middle of a tie-break. Jeremy Bates and Tim Henman had lost a point. Henman was returning a ball to the far end, but he was in a bit of a huff and hit the ball just as I was running across at the net. The ball struck me on the cheekbone. It hurt, but it was completely accidental.

The next thing I knew there was chaos on the court. Alan Mills, the referee, was talking to Henman and the umpire, Jeremy Bates was concerned about me, the crowd was booing and there was even an ambulance there. I said that I wanted to carry on, but they abandoned the match.

It was only later in the evening that I discovered Henman had been thrown out. The press were waiting for me outside my house when I went home. I was really sorry for him. I felt awful about it. It felt as though I had ruined things for him. He was so young and it was already obvious then that he was a really talented player.

There was a plan for him to come round to my house to say sorry the next day, but there was so much press interest that he had to see me at Wimbledon instead. He was such a nice guy and so apologetic. After that we went out on court, where they took photographs of him giving me a kiss and presenting me with flowers.

People still mention the incident quite often, especially when Wimbledon comes around. I never met Henman again after that, but I've always followed his career since then. He's been such a star."

Neil Broad, Olympic silver medal doubles partner

Broad, 29, and Henman, 21, had played only one previous match together when they teamed up as Britain's doubles pair at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. They won a silver medal before losing to Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde in the final.

"If Tim had taken doubles seriously he would have been one of the best doubles players in the world because he had all the necessary qualities. We were a fair team and it helped that we were good mates. We stayed in the village and loved the Olympic experience, going to the opening ceremony and mingling with all the other athletes.

I don't think Tim really believed we could get to the final, whereas I always knew that we had the potential. I was a doubles specialist and knew all about the opposition. When I saw the draw I reckoned we could go a long way.

In our only previous match together we'd lost on clay against Jan Kroslak and Karol Kucera in the Slovak Republic in the Davis Cup. We played them again in the first round and won quite comfortably. I think it was after we beat Daniel Nestor and Grant Connell that Tim started believing we could win a medal.

Our semi-final against Marc-Kevin Goellner and David Prinosil was a big tussle. I was pretty relaxed until we broke to lead 9-8 in the final set. I remember sitting at the changeover and I could hardly move. I was shaking.

We went 30-0 up on my serve, but then I played two bad points. Tim came over and calmed me down and we played two good points to win the match. I played poorly in the final, although Tim didn't play great either. The Woodies were probably the only major doubles pair I never beat.

I don't remember celebrating the silver medal. My wife was in town, two months pregnant, and we still had the final to play. I think Tim celebrated a bit more. You'd have to speak to him about that.

We played together a few times after Atlanta, but didn't have much success. I think I usually played below my best with him and Tim understandably wanted to concentrate on his singles career."

Greg Rusedski, long-time rival

Henman won eight of his 10 meetings with Rusedski, his long-time rival for the British No 1 ranking. Their biggest match was in the third round of the 2002 Australian Open, Henman winning 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3

"Both of us had had a great start to the year. I lost to him in Adelaide, where he won the tournament, and then I won in Auckland the following week. We were about the hottest players on the tour at that time.

I'd just done a complete re-work of my game because I'd had so many injuries. I was trying to put my career back on track, though I never quite regained the level I'd reached before. Tim, however, was still going in the right direction.

There was always a rivalry between us and pride at stake. Tim usually coped with the pressure better than I did. I think I wanted too badly to win. I'm sure Tim wanted it as badly as me, but he just controlled the situation better.

The match could have gone either way, but Tim played the big points better. I remember one line call in particular that went against me. If it had gone my way maybe things would have been different.

The draw had opened up and I thought Tim might go on to win the tournament, but unfortunately he didn't play as well as he would have liked in the next round and lost to Jonas Bjorkman."

Goran Ivanisevic, Wimbledon nemesis

Of his four Wimbledon semi-finals, the 2001 meeting with Ivanisevic was the closest Henman came to reaching the final. Rain delays meant the match was spread over three days before Ivanisevic, who went on to beat Pat Rafter in the final, won 7-5, 6-7,0-6, 7-6, 6-3.

"I'd never beaten Tim before, but I felt very confident because I'd been playing well. However, if it hadn't rained on the Friday I would probably never have won Wimbledon. Tim was two sets to one up and I was 1-2 and 30-40 on my serve.

But the rain came for a reason and then I knew I couldn't lose. I knew I would hit an ace down the middle on the first point on the Saturday – and that's exactly what I did.

There was huge pressure on Tim. I was watching the news on television the next day and nobody was talking about me any more. They were just talking about Tim playing in the final.

I won the fourth set on the Saturday. We had to stop again because of the weather, but I knew I was going to win. We could have gone off for 50 more rain breaks and I would still have won. On the last day I won the final set pretty quickly.

Tim's one of my favourite players and I would love to have seen him win Wimbledon, but they slowed down the grass a lot after 2001, which really ended his chances.

We've never actually spoken about the match when we've met since then. What is there to say? It was just meant to be. I imagine that every time it rains Tim must look up at the clouds and see my face, laughing with the Wimbledon trophy."

Paul Annacone, coach

Henman had most success on fast courts, but in Annacone's first full season as his coach the British player reached the 2004 semi-finals of the French Open before losing 6-3, 4-6, 0-6, 5-7 to Guillermo Coria, having overwhelmed Juan Ignacio Chela in the quarter-finals.

"I actually told Tim a long time ago, when he was working with David Felgate, that he might achieve his best result at the French Open. Tim's a great mover on clay and if you can play a forward-moving game and get the clay-courters out of their quintessential clay-court mode, just banging ground strokes, you can make them very uncomfortable, particularly if the conditions are relatively quick, which they were at Roland Garros.

You have to be very gifted to do that, but Tim has all the talent you need. He's a great athlete. I always thought he would do really well on clay because of his movement, his versatility and because he could chip-and-charge so well off second serves.

Chela's a great clay-court player but for 90 per cent of their match he was made to look very ordinary. Before the Coria match I told Tim: 'Regardless of the score at any stage in the match, I can tell you from experience that very strange things can happen out there in a Grand Slam semi-final. You're never going to be out of the match and you're never going to have won it until you shake hands.'

I thought Coria was the best clay-court player in the world at that time. I think he got a bit caught up in the moment and got off-guard in the first set. However, once he'd got the break back in the second set he started to rediscover his rhythm, although even then Tim made another run at the end of the fourth set.

After the match I think I just said to Tim: 'Great job'. He'd played really well against the best clay-courter in the world. He did a great job, which in a way is the very definition of Tim Henman."

Andy Murray, boyhood admirer

Confirmation that there was a changing of the guard in British tennis came with the first match between Murray and Henman, at Basle in October 2005. Murray was in tears after beating his boyhood idol 6-2, 5-7, 7-6.

"It was definitely a special match for me, although it felt surreal at the start. When I stood on the court, warmed up and then watched him serve the first point it was weird. It was difficult seeing someone I'd looked up to for so long, and who had become a good friend, on the other side of the net.

I was 6-2 and 5-4 up, serving for the match, and then I got a bit nervous. When you have enormous respect for someone and you then have the chance as a sportsman to get the better of them, it's tough to imagine yourself doing so.

I'd really enjoyed watching and supporting him over the years because he always gave me something to shout about. I've only known him personally for three years or so, but he's been a big help to me in that time.

Everybody on the circuit will miss him. He's always played the game in the right spirit. In such an individual and competitive sport it's very rare for one person to get on with all of the players. I know David Nalbandian said some unpleasant things about Tim in Madrid last year, but have you ever heard anyone else say a bad word about him?

All the players talk to Tim and respect him. He's been a great player on the court and he's always handled himself brilliantly off it."

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