Henman's early exit no longer a surprise

A first-round Grand Slam defeat for Tim Henman no longer has the capacity to shock. Instead, it evokes a sense of déjà vu, and a growing conviction that retirement is but a season or two away for the British No 1.

Henman's latest nemesis has a familiar name and face. Dmitry Tursunov is the hard-hitting Russian who upset his Wimbledon hopes last year in the second round. Yesterday, at the Australian Open, Tursunov beat him 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, after Henman infuriatingly threw away a 5-1 lead in the fourth set.

Despite four consecutive Grand Slam tournaments at which he has been ousted in the first or second round, the 31-year-old Briton is surprisingly mellow. Henman is happy to be fit after an injury-ridden 2005, and he is looking forward to competing in Zagreb later this month, having wisely reserved himself a spot in case he left Melbourne prematurely.

"I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing," Henman said. "I feel healthy. I want to play matches. I want to keep playing better."

While admitting that his expectations were lower than when he was in the top 10, Henman dismissed talk of retirement with a smile. However, he will review his future at the end of the season. "If I feel like I've done all the right things and I'm not satisfied with that level, then I would have to think long and hard about it," he said.

For Henman-watchers, the Tursunov encounter unwound in excruciatingly familiar fashion. First came a tight first set in which the Briton fell behind and then recovered. Then a second set that he should have dominated, but lost, the pendulum having swung back and forth. Then a plodding third with more of the same. A fourth where he finally woke up and took a commanding lead, only to give it away. And a fifth that should have been an exciting decider but which never took place.

As usual, it all took an unconscionably long time: It was three hours and 14 minutes before Tursunov punched the air, looking grimly satisfied.

British fans pinched themselves as Henman twice failed to serve out the fourth set, allowing the Russian to level at 5-5. Tursunov, who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, his best Grand Slam performance to date, then nosed ahead and sent a cross-court forehand whisking past Henman at the net on match point.

The former world No 4 has grown used to disappointment, it seems, and to disappointing people. His defeat would prompt a "gloomy day" back home, someone observed.

"There've been plenty of those, haven't there?" Henman replied. But he still claims to have the competitive instinct. "That's what motivates me," he said. "I wouldn't necessarily say I'm playing my best, but at least I'm going to have a platform to work from. I still think there are good opportunities out there. I wouldn't put it down as the biggest setback right now."

As for the 23-year-old Tursunov, who has been playing Grand Slams for only two years, he may be one to watch. The California-based Russian is powerful, and he can be deadly. "He's so difficult to play against because a lot of the time the match is in his control," Henman said.

"You don't really know what to expect. When he's on with his shots, there's very little you can do," he said. "Whether you're serving at the corners, or serving at him, or just in a rally, he can hit winners from everywhere."

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

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

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice