We at lawyer’s life are still in a post Wimbledon haze, emotionally drained and utterly exhausted from that magnificent men’s final.
Life always seems a little bereft after the last new ball is struck in SW19 though this year we still had the excitement of the World Cup to go. Brazil’s exit proved almost as shocking as their side show Bob haircuts. But I digress.
Before Wimbledon began, I caught the tiger himself, Tim Henman as he promoted the new Wimbledon app. Far removed from the days of Dan Maskell’s gentle ‘oh, I says’ when a player hit a superlative shot, Wimbledon is all high tech now. Through the app you can experience Wimbledon without setting foot on Henman Hill and see the beauty and splendour of the All England club up close.
After his promotion duties, Henman answered questions. Inevitably he was asked for his pick for the men’s title. Wisely he said you could never write off Federer at Wimbledon and as we know the Fed express came within a whisker of his 8th title but was just denied by Djokovic.
Talking about his own career, Henman recalled going to Wimbledon as a 6 year old with his mother. He stood at the side of the court and instantly knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. He idolized Bjorn Borg and Stefan Edberg and once he became a professional player got to practice with Edberg which was a dream come true.
I asked him how he mentally and emotionally prepared for the big grand slam matches. He said that players, on average, play about 70 or 80 matches per year and for each they have to be in control of their emotions because they can be called upon to play at any moment. As he waited for a match on the court he was due to play on to finish he never knew whether he would be on in 10 minutes or two hours. All he knew was that he had to be ready to play at the highest level at a moment’s notice. He passed the time mostly by playing cards or backgammon.
He doesn’t retain memorabilia from his career but he has the great memories. ‘After a win it’s important to savour the moment,’ he said, ‘after all at Wimbledon 127 players will ultimately lose.’
When he did lose, and he did so memorably on several occasions at Wimbledon, his thought was always, ‘how do I improve?’
When asked how he knew it was the right time to stop playing he said it was in Washington in July 2007. He was playing John Isner who served 35 aces. Henman was 32, his ranking had slipped to 30, his wife Lucy was pregnant with their third child and he just felt it was time. He’d been playing since the age of 3.
Once he made the decision, he said he felt liberated and went on to play great tennis in his remaining tournaments. ‘If I’d known retirement was going to be so great, ‘d have done it 10 years earlier!’
Henman’s picks for the 2 greatest matches ever at Wimbledon:
Borg v McEnroe in 1980
Federer v Nadal in 2008.