Old guard hail the rise of Murray

"In every aspect [Andy's progress] is a big, big positive for me," said the 31-year-old Henman, who today is due to play Radek Stepanek, of the Czech Republic, in the second round at the Madrid Masters.

"It's great to finally have someone to follow myself and Tim after all these years," said the 32-year-old Rusedski, after losing in the opening round here yesterday to the giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic, a qualifier, 6-7 7-6 7-6.

"I've talked about it for years and years," said Henman. "We need more players. Now Andy's come along, and he's going to be around for a long time. He's going to keep improving a lot. That is exciting, to have another genuine focal point, not for just a week here and a week there.

"I've spoken to 'Petch' [Mark Petchey, Murray's coach] and Andy quite a lot in the last few weeks. I'll be a very keen and enthusiastic spectator watching what he's going to do - not only the next year, but his whole career."

Henman, from Oxfordshire, and the Montreal-born Rusedski both reached a high of No 4 on the ATP Tour rankings. Henman has been a Wimbledon singles semi-finalist four times and also reached the last four at the French Open and the US Open. Both are winners of the Paris Masters.

Although Henman has retired from the Davis Cup to concentrate on Tour events, Rusedski is one of Murray's international team-mates.

"Andy's strengths are quite obvious," Rusedski said. "He returns serve extremely well. His first serve can get better. He fights very well from the first ball till the last ball. He also can go from offence to defence very well. If he has to play 15 weeks in a row, he plays 15 weeks in a row, which some of the other guys don't do. I think he'll be clever and have someone who is going to work on keeping his body in good nick.

"He moves and reads the game well. He reminds me a little bit of [Miloslav] Mecir with a little bit more power." Praise indeed, as anyone who saw Mecir in the 1980s will know. The tall Slovakian was one of the most artistic of players.

Rusedski's challenge yesterday was to avoid being dumped on from a great height. Madrid is 2,119 feet above sea level. Add Karlovic, at 6ft 10in, and imagine how the ball flew after he raised his arm to serve.

Although the conditions also favoured Rusedski, who is six inches shorter, Karlovic was almost unplayable. There were moments when Rusedski, fretting over line calls, seemed on the point of Basil Fawlty impersonations.

Neither player had his serve broken over the two hours 17 minutes (Karlovic dropped only 15 points on his serve). Rusedski won the first tie-break, 7-5. Karlovic won the second, 7-2, and the third, 7-3.

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