Henman's personal best is cause for British optimism

As Britain moved towards tomorrow's draw for the Davis Cup World Group qualifying round, Jeremy Bates, who negotiated successfully his first tie as captain here in Luxembourg, was asked if he thought Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski were capable of winning the cup in the twilight of their careers.

As Britain moved towards tomorrow's draw for the Davis Cup World Group qualifying round, Jeremy Bates, who negotiated successfully his first tie as captain here in Luxembourg, was asked if he thought Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski were capable of winning the cup in the twilight of their careers.

The question was grossly optimistic, given that Britain have not even won a tie in the 16-strong World Group since 1986, when Bates was in the team that defeated Spain in the first round in Telford. Bates, Henman and Rusedski blinked and smiled in unison, and agreed to take one match at a time. A home tie against Australia is one of the possibilities.

That does not mean Bates lacks confidence on a tie-by-tie basis. "I feel the team we've got can win against anyone, anywhere," he said, having beaten Luxembourg 4-1 to earn the chance of a swift departure from the Euro-African Zone.

The 29-year-old Henman completed a personal best yesterday, winning all nine sets in his three matches over the weekend. Yesterday, the British No 1 recovered from 5-2 down in the opening set against the left-handed Gilles Muller, the Luxembourg No 1, to secure the tie with a 7-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory.

Rusedski, competing in his first event since his drugs controversy, partnered Henman in an impressive win in Saturday's doubles and concluded the tie by defeating Mike Scheidweiler in the "dead" rubber, 6-3, 7-6.

The only disappointment was Arvind Parmar's five-set defeat by Muller in the first match on Friday, when the British No 3 was given a chance to atone for his collapse against Ecuador at Wimbledon four years ago. Parmar, originally scheduled to play in the second of yesterday's reverse singles, was left to watch Rusedski and rue the chances he failed to take after leading Muller by two sets to one.

Muller, who, with Scheidweiler, lost in the doubles, 6-4, 7-6, 6-3, was expected to respond with more gusto yesterday when facing Henman, the world No 8, in the singles, than he did on Friday, when he had been expected to beat Parmar. Muller, the world's No 1 junior in 2001, was keen to show his countryfolk that Henman held no terrors, even if he has been a Wimbledon semi-finalist four times.

Having volleyed away a break point after making a double-fault in the third game, Muller returned well enough to make Henman think twice about coming to the net, and broke for 3-1 on his second break point, after Henman had committed another double-fault at 40-30. When it came to serving for the set at 5-3, however, Muller looked vulnerable under pressure, and Henman converted his fourth break point of the game, returning a second serve with a brisk backhand down the line.

The danger for Henman did not end there. Another double-fault on the opening point of the tenth game meant he had to save two set points before levelling at 5-5. Muller's challenge began to fade in the tie-break. He hit a forehand long at 1-2 and made a double-fault to 2-6, Henman clinching the shoot-out on his first set point with backhand pass down the line.

Henman then took control of the match, winning the opening three games of the second set, which ended with Muller committing a double-fault on set point in the eighth game. Muller made yet another double-fault to lose his serve at 1-2 in the third set, and Henman swept to victory after an hour and 43 minutes.

The mood was upbeat, and, Parmar notwithstanding, there were hints of progress in the search for reinforcements to ease the load on Tim and Greg in the short term, and to replace them in the near future. Jonny Marray, a 23-year-old serve-volleyer, was an enthusiastic member of the squad here, and two promising juniors, Andrew Murray and Andrew Banks, also made the most of having a taste of Davis Cup atmosphere.

"People think somebody just has to press a magic button to get new players, but it doesn't happen like that," Henman said. "But there are 12 to 15 very good young players who are working hard to break through and the atmosphere in the British game is very good. In 1991-92, when I was a youngster, Bill Knight was setting high standards. I thought the vibes were good then, but they're better now."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
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.

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits