Wimbledon dream fades as Henman hints at retirement

Henman was so disappointed with his performances during the first seven months of the year that he admitted to wondering if his career had "burned out after all the years". He hoped, however, to reignite his form and desire.

Yesterday, he said: "I have belief in my qualities as a player and expect the results to come. But if I'm doing the right things in practice after a month or three months of things not happening, a player does question himself."

This is the closest the British No 1 has come to suggesting that he will end his competitive career. Having retired from Britain's Davis Cup team this year, he was hoping to concentrate his energies on tournaments on the ATP Tour and make the most of the time left to him at the top of the game.

His campaign at the US Open was hampered by his back problems - two degenerating discs in the lower back - but he returned to England determined to prepare himself for Bangkok and the forthcoming Masters Series events in Madrid and Paris.

"Earlier this year I was not enjoying my tennis for the first time," he said. "I desperately want to put that right."

He added that he was excited about the work he was putting in, "to kick-start me for 2006. I want to finish this year strongly."

After a splendid season in 2004, in which he reached the semi-finals at the French Open and the US Open for the first time, Henman's results have failed to live up to his own high standards this year and his ranking is now outside the world's top 20. When he arrived at Wimbledon in June, he was hoping that he would be able to erase the ominous feelings he was having about his career. But he was defeated in the second round of the tournament by Dmitry Tursunov, of Russia. Meanwhile, the 18-year-old Andy Murray, of Scotland, made his mark by advancing to the third round at his first attempt.

While praising Murray's talent and potential, Henman remained confident that his own fortunes would pick up. So far this has not happened.

Henman, unlike Murray, was a typical British late developer. He did not emerge into the spotlight until he was 20, but was then able to improve his serve-volley game to the point of becoming the nation's most successful male player since Fred Perry in the late 1930s.

"Henmania" quickly became part of British tennis lore as Henman proved himself capable of thrilling home crowds on the lawns of SW19.

He has reached the semi-finals four times, and was unfortunate to miss the final in 2001 when beaten by rain delays and the ambition of Croatia's Goran Ivanisevic, who went on to win the title after having to rely on a wild card for the tournament.

Henman's most impressive result on the ATP Tour was in winning the Paris Masters in 2003. To do so he had to defeat players such as Sebastian Grosjean, the Frenchman who had beaten him at both Queen's and Wimbledon that year, Gustavo Kuerten, the former French Open champion, Roger Federer, the Wimbledon champion and the American, Andy Roddick.

Federer, the world No 1, who helped Switzerland to a 2-0 lead against Britain yesterday after the opening day of the Davis Cup world group qualifying round in Geneva, said that he could understand Henman's decision to concentrate on the Tour at this stage in his career.

Henman, although not tempted to return to the team in order to challenge Federer in Geneva, has not ruled out the possibility of being closely involved with the British game in future. "I can see myself being captain in a few years," he said.

Having been Britain's leading player for the last decade, Henman can empathise with young Murray as the Scot begins to make progress in the world game.

"The bar of expectation is going higher and higher for Andy," he said, "and it should, because he's a class player. But he must be focused on what he's doing. He has an edge to him, which is good."

He added, however: "But there's a fine line. He must concentrate on what he wants to achieve and not on what is written about him."

Having for years suffered the indignity of being classed by many as an under-achiever for failing to win Wimbledon, Henman knows what he's talking about. The hope is that he will return to his favourite courts for a last hoorah.

people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police