Bud Collins: This is the year for Henman to charge down the curse

Saddle up, Tim. Sharpen your sabre. Attach spurs to your plimsoles - and think Balaclava and Causeway Heights! This is the year.

Whenever I think about Timothy Henry Henman (at least every June anyway), the Crimean War comes to mind, and I picture him as the latter-day, one-man Charge of the Light Brigade. Into the Valley of Centre Court he bursts: Roddick to the right of him, Hewitt to the left of him, Federer in front of him. Volleying and thundering. Stormed at with shots from hellish rackets.

Is he ever dismayed? Never. His not to reason why ... but to do or be hung out to dry. Again? If Tennyson were yet the Poet Laureate, don't you think he'd immortalise Tim as he did the Light Brigade? Charging gallantly, failing nobly. "Our Tim" nonetheless.

But not this year.

This, I believe, is the year that the 29-year-old, two-legged Light Brigade goes all the way. The year of the 150th anniversary of that devil-may-care Brigade's vain assault up Causeway Heights. The only time British veterans of a defeat were awarded medals.

Tim has their style and determination. Half-a-league onward, half-a-league onward, half-a-league onward - galloping through the draw into the grinning jaws of triumph. Slashing his rivals, silencing the cannons, maybe even disposing of a Russian or two as the storied Brigade did.

Had I been covering the Crimea in 1854, and a local bookmaker offered me an attractive price on the Light Brigade, I would have grabbed it for a few guineas. Hard for me to resist that kind of long-shot. Would I have had a good run for my money? Probably, that's why, six weeks ago, I asked a friend in London to put a modest sum for me on the Timmy Brigade. The price was 5-1. I had a feeling, an urge, a hunch, a premonition. And that, mind you, was before he won a DDC (Distinguished Dirtkicker's Cross) for his strong, unprecedented final-four finish at the French Open.

How many years has Tim been the Great Why Hope? Why hasn't he advanced beyond those four semi-finals? Because nobody got rid of the champions in his way: Sampras, Sampras, Ivanisevic, Hewitt. Why hasn't any man of English blood been able to dispel the Curse of Centre Court since Fred Perry waved goodbye in 1936? Why is it true that the English, who introduced the game as we know it in 1874, are no longer able to play it?

All these "whys" weigh on Tim's shoulders as though million of hard copies of Great Expectations. He can handle the load this time. This year it's "why not?". I remember Fred Perry wishing that he would live long enough to watch his homeboy successor take a victory lap around Centre Court. "No idea who it'll be," he said. "But it'll happen." He had faith. So do I. Fred gave up waiting nine years ago. He was 85. I'm eating an apple a day. Perhaps he'll catch Tim's championship on a celestial channel. Fred preached patience. After all, England had to wait a quarter-century for him to arrive powerfully and erase the curse of his day. The prior English champion male at the Big W had been 41-year-old Arthur Gore in 1909.

Still, this 68-year-old curse is a bit much, even for paragons of patience, wouldn't you say? All the more reason for the stars to be aligned and twinkling at Tim. Every curse wears out. Didn't an English pugilist actually win the world heavyweight championship Might Fred be putting in a word for Tim in the highest of places? Ever think of that? Whether God gives a damn about tennis, I also don't know. But blessed, supposedly, are the meek.

And who have been meeker than English guys since Fred wore the crown? No more, I'm telling you. This Light Brigade in short pants will serve and volley boldly, head held high with an upper lip stiffer than Falstaff at a pub. He'll drive the Henman Hillbillies to ecstasy, foes to departing flights and even the Queen (that horse-happy disdainer of tennis) to sneak a peek at Brigading Tim on her telly. Won't she one day tap him as Sir Tim of Wim? I see it happening. After all, strange things are occurring this year. The Sisters Sledgehammer (Venus and Serena) are vulnerable. The Brussels Sprouts (Clijsters and Henin-Hardin) are uprooted. The Gaucho, Gaudio, and the rag doll, Myskina, ruled Paris where Haenel, a household name not even in his own household, KO'd Agassi in the first round.

What better year for the Light Brigade redux to win this time around? I know what you're saying: "The bloody Yank is with the light-headed brigade and thinks it's Whim-bledon." Never mind, Tim. Just brandish that tightly strung sabre and ... charge!

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones