Henman works night shift to demolish Philippoussis

It was 8.48pm. The moon was up, Centre Court was in shadow, pigeons flew around wondering what so many people were shouting about, and Tim Henman raised his arms in victory having won the 40th Wimbledon singles match of his career.

No player left in the tournament has accumulated so many matches, and yet, as the nation knows only too well, the 29-year-old from Oxfordshire has yet to win the title.

Last night's dramatic win against Mark Philippoussis, 6-2, 7-5, 6-7, 7-6, sent Henman through to the quarter-finals, where he will play Mario Ancic, a young man bursting to emulate his compatriot, Goran Ivanisevic.

But that is for another day, and we have time to catch our breath and marvel at the twists and turns of the fifth-seeded Henman's contest against the 11th-seeded Philippoussis.

The tall, powerful Australian with the booming serve that earned him the nickname "Scud'' went into the match having beaten Henman in four of their previous six matches. That included his five-set win against the British No 1 in the fourth round in 2000.

Henman gained revenge, but not without taking his supporters on another journey in an emotional mixer for three hours and seven minutes.

The crescendo that greeted his moment of triumph matched anything we have witnessed on any of the three "People's Sundays''.

"It's tough to make sense of it,'' Henman said immediately after it was over. "It was really intense out there. The quality of the play was so high all the time. I really had to stick in there. I had to keep fighting and stay strong mentally. I'm relieved to get through.''

Philippoussis, though bitterly disappointed, said: "Tim deserved to win. He definitely has the game to win it, but Ancic is a dangerous player.''

Events at the start of the match did not suggest that spectators would be leaving the grounds at twilight. In fact for two-and-a-half sets it seemed that Henman would wipe the court with Philippoussis, last year's beaten finalist. When Henman, two sets up, held to love for 2-2 in the third set the astonishing statistic was that he had dropped only seven points on his serve in the match. His domination of Philippoussis had been so complete that the Australian's serves, even those in the high 130mph range, were being treated with disdain by the confident Henman.

After three unconvincing displays en route to the last 16, Henman made the point that playing Philippoussis would be more straightforward ­ Philippoussis would hit big serves and move in to volley, and Henman's job was either to pass him or make him volley enough to make errors.

The scenario was precisely that, and Henman's early successes were made easier by the fact that his opponent was moving with all the mobility of an oak tree dressed in tennis whites. Philippoussis was lumbering and blundering. Not even Henman, at his most optimistic, would have expected his opponent to double-fault three times in one game, which he did in the fifth game of the opening set. He had already been broken in the first game, and his serving errors left him 4-1 down. Henman completed the opening set after only 24 minutes, having conceded only four points on serve.

The court was half in shadow at the start of the second set, in which Philippoussis continued to clank the heavy serves and Henman frustrated him with his returns and all-round court craft. It was not until the 11th game, however, that Henman broke through, passing Philippoussis with a backhand half-volley across the court for 30-40 and converting the opportunity with a backhand return of a 132mph serve that caught the corner of the court.

Or did it? Philippoussis certainly did not think so. He stood staring at the spot where he believed the ball had landed out and protested to the umpire, Enric Molina, of Spain, to no avail. On this occasion luck was with Henman and he took advantage by serving out the set to love. That was hardly surprising given that he had dropped only two points on his serve in his six service games.

Henman matches at major tournaments rarely run that smoothly. No sooner had spectators began to relax and enjoy the spectacle of a British sportsman in full flow than the first crisis came for Henman in the sixth game of the third set. Almost carefree to that point, Henman suddenly found his serve under serious attack. At 2-3, 30-40, having netted a forehand volley to offer the break point, he followed up a second serve with a backhand volley to salvage the situation.

Henman's supporters relaxed again ­ until their favourite was serving to save the set at 4-5 and was passed by a brilliant crosscourt backhand by Philippoussis for 30-40. Henman saved that break point with a solid serve. He finished that game with three aces to his credit, though Philippoussis was convinced that one of them was wide. On this occasion it seemed that Philippoussis was driven by frustration rather than conviction.

The Australian's temper was not improved when Henman was awarded another ace that took him to 40-30 in the 12th game. This time he overstepped the mark and swore at Molina, who gave him a warning.

After the match Philippoussis said he was sorry for the outburst. "Obviously, it's not great when kids are listening, and for that I apologise,'' he said. "But it was in the heat of the moment.''

Light was fading when it came down to a tie-break in the third set, and Henman lost the opening four points. And then double-faulted to 2-5. Philippoussis won the shoot-out, 7-3, on his first set point.

The fourth set was a passage of jangling nerves. At one point the plaintive cry, "Do it for England, Tim!'' came from a spectator, creating nervous laughter all round. After that the cheering for Henman between points was intense. Although he answered by breaking for 4-2, he had become as edgy as everyone else. Although he created two match points on Philippoussis's serve in the eighth game he was then broken when serving for the match at 5-3. None the less, he was able to put that blip behind him and edge a taut tie-break. Henman double-faulted on the first point, Philippoussis followed suit on the second point. Henman won the next and held for 3-1, was pulled back to 3-2, but then achieved the vital mini-break for 4-2 with a superb backhand pass from his service return down the line. He needed three more match points to finish the job, and the roar that went up when Philippoussis hit a backhand second service return wide for 7-5 drove the pigeons away and sent everyone who was not Australian home happy.

Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape