Henman leaves the big stage with defeat but few regrets - Tennis - Sport - The Independent

Henman leaves the big stage with defeat but few regrets

Former British No 1 bows out after a predictable beating from a new breed of player

There were no tears, no regrets and no second thoughts. If there was to be a fitting end to Tim Henman's Grand Slam career here at the US Open it could hardly have been more appropriate than his four-set defeat by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga under the floodlights of Louis Armstrong Stadium on Friday evening.

Night matches at Flushing Meadows, with the noisy crowd and sultry conditions, have a flavour of their own. Wimbledon it is not, but Henman knows he will take his final bow at his spiritual home against Croatia in the Davis Cup later this month, and the New York audience generated what the former British No 1 called "a fantastic atmosphere" for his farewell tournament appearance.

Even more tellingly, Tsonga provided a perfect illustration of why Henman feels the time is right to retire. While a bad back has played a key part in his decision, other factors have meant the former world No 4 has been fighting a losingbattle for some years now.

Modern-day balls and court surfaces, which give baseliners time to wind up their pounding groundstrokes, do no favours to serve-and-volley specialists, while a new generation of supermen – built like shot-putters, as tall as basketball players and with the speed of 100m runners – have changed the dynamics of the game.

Tsonga, 6ft 2in and over 14 stones, is typical of the new breed and the 22-year-old Frenchman would be ranked higher thanNo 74 in the world without the injuries that have interrupted his career. He won 7-6 2-6 7-5 6-4.

"Tsonga's a classic modern-day player," Henman said. "I think that's where it's become harder and harder for me to compete. You look at the way he serves, the way he hits his forehand, his athleticism. It's phenomenal these days – and there are a lot of other guys like that around."

Of his own frame, Henman said he would have liked to have been "three or four inches taller and 20 or 30 pounds heavier". He believes there is still a place for serve-and-volley players, but "with the nature of the conditions and the balls, it's definitelybecoming harder and harder. Less and less people are being taught it and encouraged to play it at a young age. You've got an event here with 128 male players and very few of them are serving and volleying. It's sad, because I think everybody knows that watching contrasts of styles is what makes a good spectacle."

The first set might have gone Henman's way, but Tsonga broke back after dropping his serve to trail 4-5 and won the tie-break comfortably. Henman's chip-and-charge tactics flummoxed the Frenchman in the second set, but the Briton was eventually outhit and outrun. A break in the fifth game of the fourth set proved decisive, and Tsonga took the match with an ace.

Henman will look back with some satisfaction, having beatenthe seeded Dmitry Tursunov in the first round. He said he felt comfortable with his decision to retire and was content that he had always given 100 per cent.

"It's my last tournament, but I feel like the Davis Cup is a big event," he said. "I can't honestlysay I've finished my career because although I'm going to go back and have a few days off, I'm going to be in the gym, practising, getting back on grassand preparing."

He said he expected "a few tears" at Wimbledon in three weeks' time. "That's when I'll be closing a chapter that's dominated such a big part of my life. I feel like I've been a professionalfor 26 years, because I made one career decision when I was probably five or six. I knew I wantedto be a professional tennisplayer. I didn't know whether that was realistic or what lay ahead, but it has been such a big part of my life. I'm sure it's going to be much more emotional than it is probably right now."

Tsonga goes on to play Rafael Nadal, whose opponent, Janko Tipsarevic, retired with a rib injury. On a day when two former champions, Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin, lost to Agustin Calleri and Stanislas Wawrinka respectively, Britain's lone competitor in the men's doubles also went out, Jamie Murray and Eric Butorac losing to Amer Delic and Justin Gimelstob.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week