The past and the present met at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton last week. Tim Henman, temporarily swapping his golf clubs for a tennis racket, was getting his game back in shape in preparation for next Sunday's testing of the Centre Court roof at Wimbledon while Andy Murray, who will surpass Henman's highest world ranking when he moves up from No 4 to No 3 in tomorrow's updated list, was honing his clay-court game in preparation for this week's Madrid Masters.
For Henman, who will join Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters at the All England Club, it will be a nostalgic revisiting of the scene of some of his finest moments. For Murray it will be an early return to a city where he won his second Masters Series title last October.
Madrid, effectively replacing Hamburg in this season's revamped schedule, moves from its indoor venue at the Casa de Campo to a new outdoor clay-court complex at the Caja Magica. The impressive "Magic Box" boasts a central stadium with seating for 12,500, though Spain's most famous player questions whether Madrid is the right place to stage the last major tournament before the French Open starts in a fortnight's time. The balls fly through the rarefied air of one of Europe's highest capitals (650 metres above sea level) and Rafael Nadal says the conditions will be very different from Paris.
"Playing in Spain is always a special motivation for me, but the only thing about playing there is the altitude," the world No 1 said. "I've played there and I know. It's going to be a really difficult tournament. Maybe I would have preferred not to play at altitude before Roland Garros and to have played somewhere with similar conditions to Paris, but that's the calendar."
The thin air clearly did not worry Murray seven months ago and the Scot will hope to get some more matches under his belt after losing first time out in his previous tournament, in Rome. If the seedings go to plan Murray will first meet Simone Bolelli, followed by Tommy Robredo, Juan Martin del Potro and Roger Federer in the semi-finals.
The top two in the other half of the draw are Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who is losing the No 3 spot he has held for nearly two years. This week the players defend the points they won in Hamburg last year, when Djokovic earned 450 as a semi-finalist and Murray only 150 after going out in the third round. Murray could soon be breathing down the neck of Federer, the world No 2, though he does not want to get ahead of himself. "I need to win a lot of matches if I want to try and catch him," he said.
Madrid is a joint event this year and Murray's female counterpart as British No 1, Anne Keothavong, will be aiming to put a disappointing recent run behind her. Since reaching the semi-finals in Memphis in February she has won only once. Keothavong first plays a qualifier, the winner to face Kaia Kanepi or Lucie Safarova, with Dinara Safina, the world No 1, likely to await in the last 16.Reuse content