Showdown in Basle for master and apprentice

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The Independent Online

"Battle of Britain", "England v Scotland", "King of British Tennis duels Heir Apparent". Enough to send the British Association of Tennis Supporters to the nearest airport.

However the match is labelled, the bottom line is that the 18-year-old Murray, here with a wild card, has another opportunity to add to his burgeoning experience of life on the ATP Tour.

Henman and Murray will be prepared for the meeting, in the first round of the Davidoff Swiss Indoor Tournament. They practised together at London's Queen's Club last week.

Ever since Murray won the US Open junior title last year, he has been earmarked as the young man who will succeed Henman when the 31-year-old from Oxfordshire decides to retire.

Moreover, Henman has hardly been given pause from answering questions concerning Murray's potential. He has even given the prodigy pointers about the game, including dealing with the British media.

Murray, for his part, has spoken of his respect for Henman and Greg Rusedski, the British No 2, and has talked of how he has grown up baffled about the negative response to Henman's accomplishments.

These include four Wimbledon semi-finals, a semi-final appearance at both the French Open and the US Open last year, and a Paris Masters triumph among 11 career singles titles.

Murray's own rise has been even more remarkable than Henman's at the same age. Henman did not have a world ranking in his teens. Murray is ranked 70th, only 42 places behind Henman, who has been ranked as high as No 4.

There is no question that Murray is ready for the challenge. His spirited display against Roger Federer, the world No 1, in the recent Thailand Open final demonstrated that, and he pushed David Nalbandian, of Argentina, in the third round on his debut at the All England Club.

A more pertinent point is whether Henman will be able to cope with Murray as he pits his serve-volley-based game against Murray's admirably effective backcourt rallying.

Henman, who has had a weary season after his exploits last year, has a suspect back and is desperate to win a match or two to bolster his confidence before taking a five-week break to work on his game after next week's Paris Masters.

Whoever prevails will play either the Czech Tomas Berdych or the Swiss George Bastl in the second round. Murray, it may be remembered, defeated Bastl in his first match at Wimbledon in June.

Federer, who has yet to win his home town tournament, cannot play because of an ankle injury, and Rafael Nadal, the Spanish world No 2, has also withdrawn to rest sore knees after his triumph on Sunday at the Madrid Masters.

This lets in Murray's Scottish compatriot, Alan Mackin, as a lucky loser. Mackin plays Marcos Baghdatis, of Cyprus.

Nadal, a year older than Murray, is an extraordinary example of how men's tennis has developed in recent years. The 19-year-old French Open champion won his fourth Masters Series title of the year in Madrid, equalling Federer's record, and also pulling level with the Wimbledon champion with 11 titles. Nadal has won 79 matches this year - two more than Federer.

"This has been an incredible year," Nadal said. "A year to remember, to keep at home like a picture you hang on the wall."