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Tim Henman by Simon Felstein

Release date: 24th June, 2005
Publisher: John Blake Publishing

List Price: £17.99
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Tim Henman by Simon Felstein
John Blake Publishing price: £12.59 (saving £5.40 on cover price)

When 30 year-old Tim Henman lost to the Russian Dmitry Tursunov at Wimbledon last week, a number of pundits commented that British tennis's figurative torch, and with it the hopes of a nation, had been handed over to the Scottish teenage sensation Andrew Murray.

Ever since Fred Perry's trio of consecutive Wimbledon victories, the last of which was in 1936, every British male has been forced to play in the great man's burgeoning shadow. In the modern era alone, players such as John Taylor, John Lloyd, Buster Mottram, Jeremy Bates and now Tim Henman have had to contend with what may be unreasonably high expectations.

On this specific point, the author quotes Henman directly: "If I sat and thought about the thousands at Wimbledon who will be willing me on and the millions that will be watching on televisionÖI would be a fruitcake by the time I walked out on court." Who wouldn't? Yet as Felstein goes on to conclude in this engaging first biography of the British number one, a lot of fight and unfulfilled ambition remains before Henman Hill is renamed Murray Mount.

The son of Jane, who played at junior Wimbledon and Tony, an all-round sportsman who played tennis, hockey, squash and cricket to county level, Tim Henman's sporting prowess was clearly in the genes. Educated at Reeds School courtesy of the Slater Foundation, a charitable fund established in 1970 to talent-scout for boys who could be moulded into future champions, Henman came under the early tutelage of David Lloyd.

At Reeds, it was obvious that young Tim had plenty of natural desire and ability, but he was by no means the pick of the bunch when it came to playing tennis. This was exacerbated by a rare bone disorder, osteochondritis dissecans, which threatened to cut short Henman's tennis career almost before it had started.

Yet Henman overcame this potentially debilitating problem, displaying the type of courage and pluck that eventually saw him leave school before completing his A-levels in order to pursue a professional tennis career.

For me, this is probably the most enjoyable part of the book as Felstein describes the young rookie's tennis odyssey as far removed from the world of 5-star hotels and chauffer-driven cars as possible. Instead, Henman had to contend with dodgy hotels and economy class travel as he began climbing up the world rankings; no-one could say he enjoyed an easy ride.

However, following this essential apprenticeship, some promising performances and occasional wild card invitations, Henman finally got to experience life on the ATP Tour. By the start of 1996, he had won a place in the world's top 100; at the end of the season, after travelling 65,000 miles and playing in 70 singles matches, he had risen to number 29. Tim Henman had made his breakthrough; it was to prove a lucrative one as he banked more than £1 million from his on-court earnings and sponsorship deals for the first time.

Since 1998, Henman has maintained a spot in the world top ten, yet despite being one of the planet's best tennis players, when it comes to Wimbledon, that ubiquitous burden of expectation continues to stalk him. He may have been disappointed last week, but one fancies he has one, possibly two, more realistic chances of winning the All England title; it would be a fitting end to what, as this book proves, has been a hugely successful sporting career.

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