Murray beaten but eclipses Henman as new British No1

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The Independent Online

When Andy Murray made his debut on the senior tour, losing in three sets to Jan Hernych in Barcelona last April, he was ranked 391 places behind Tim Henman, the world No 6 and British No 1.

Just 10 months on, Murray knew even before his quarter-final defeat by Robin Soderling in the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis last night that he would overtake his boyhood inspiration when the world rankings are updated next Monday. Murray's second-round victory over Rik De Voest on Thursday night, combined with Henman's defeat against Novak Djokovic in the ABN AMRO tournament in Rotterdam on the same day and Greg Rusedski's loss to Nikolai Davydenko 24 hours earlier, ensured that the 18-year-old will be confirmed as the new British No 1 next week.

After a hard-fought win in three sets over De Voest, a South African who had entered the main draw as a "lucky loser", Murray was unable to sustain his run of success against Soderling, whom he had beaten at the same stage of the SAP Open in San Jose last week on the way to his first ATP title. Soderling won 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and eight minutes.

The 18-year-old Scot won just 10 points in a dreadful first set, which he lost in 20 minutes, managing to get just 20 per cent of his first serves into play. The second set was a more closely fought affair, with Murray recovering from a break down to level at 3-3. However, the teenager promptly lost his serve again and this time it proved decisive.

Henman has been top British bulldog since 1999, when he became No 1 for the third time after three years of jousting with Rusedski, but his descent in the rankings list is likely to gather pace in the coming weeks. The 31-year-old is currently ranked No 40 (Rusedski is 43 and Murray 47) but after falling behind Murray next week he will slide further down the order unless he can match or improve on his 2005 performances over the next three tournaments, having reached the quarter-finals last year at Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami.

A semi-final in Zagreb earlier this month and a victory over Thomas Johansson, the No 4 seed, in the first round in Rotterdam offered some hope of a revival, but Thursday's 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 defeat was a reminder of how times are changing.

Henman pulled out of a tournament in Marseilles last week because of a back injury and admitted that he was still feeling his way back to fitness. "On the whole it felt good, but I still need to build up more matches, more tournaments and, hopefully, more confidence in it," he said.

Arvind Parmar was the last Briton standing in Rotterdam. The 27-year-old lost 6-3, 6-3 to Belgium's Christophe Rochus in yesterday's quarter-finals. However, after beating Paradorn Srichaphan and Dominik Meffert in earlier rounds the British No 5 should see an improvement in his world ranking of 230.

Britain's No 1s ...

* 27 Feb 2006 Andy Murray

* 1998-2006 Tim Henman

* 1997 Greg Rusedski

* 1996 Henman

* 1995 Rusedski

* 1987-94 Jeremy Bates

* 1986 Andrew Castle

* 1984-85 John Lloyd

* 1983 Colin Dowdeswell

* 1977-82 Buster Mottram

* 1974-76 Mark Cox

* 1973 Roger Taylor