Stay aggressive with that lethal backhand, Tim Henman advises Andy Murray

 

Tim Henman, the only British man since the Second World War other than Andy Murray to reach four Wimbledon singles semi-finals, believes that his fellow countryman will have little trouble coping with the pressure against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga here this afternoon. "With Andy's experience, he's in a very good place," Henman said yesterday as he looked ahead to today's semi-finals.

Henman, who is part of the BBC's commentary team, lost in the semi-finals in 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002. But the former world No 4 said that he always thought Wimbledon lifted rather than stifled him, and that he handled the occasion better with each passing year.

"It was what I always dreamt of doing, it was always what I felt I played this game for, so I felt I took it in my stride," he said. "In terms of the preparation and going through the whole journey in the tournament, if anything, it got easier."

Henman said he could understand how Murray was able to retreat into what the Scot called his "little bubble", avoiding all newspapers and television reports during the fortnight-long tournament.

"I was flicking through newspapers this morning and it would be terrifying for Andy to sit down and read it all," Henman said. "I can say hand on heart that when I was in the middle of it, the only expectation was from within.

"I couldn't wait to be out there playing. The expectation didn't worry me in the slightest and I'm grateful that was the case. If you were distracted by that then I don't think it is something you could cope with. I think Andy is in a similar boat. He is out there playing for himself."

Henman said he had been impressed by Murray's resilience, particularly in his victory over David Ferrer in the quarter-finals. "It was a battle from start to finish," he said. "Now he's in the semis it is a great opportunity. I don't think he enjoyed the match-up against Ferrer, but I think he enjoys the match-up against Tsonga. Tsonga is playing very well, but I think Murray can and will win."

The former British No 1 said that Novak Djokovic, who faces Roger Federer in today's other semi-final, would be a formidable opponent in the final. "He's looked in awesome form," Henman said. "I think he's favourite against Federer. I think with the conditions the way they are, with his athletic ability and the way he plays off the ground, he's the favourite for the tournament."

What would Henman say to Murray if he was in the shoes of Ivan Lendl, the Scot's coach? "I would be saying 'More of the same'. I think the strategy and game-plan is very clear – just keep doing what you are doing. Your attitude has been great. He served very well at the right times [against Ferrer] and his percentages were going up towards the end of the match, which is pretty rare.

"Keep being aggressive with the two-handed backhand. I think it's one of the best in the game. Against [Marin] Cilic, when it looked like it was going to rain, he was, like, 'I'd better hurry up here.' And he just started hitting winners.

"I know that if I had a backhand like that, I would try and hit winners every time."

Today at Wimbledon

Centre Court schedule (Play starts at 1pm):

Djokovic (Serb) v Federer (Swit)

Murray (GB) v Tsonga (Fr)

Weather watch Mostly dry with some sunny intervals, showers expected later on. Maximum temperature: 20C

TV 12.30pm-3.25pm & 5.50pm-8pm, BBC 2. 1.45pm-6pm, BBC1 (highlights: 8-9pm, BBC 2).

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