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Davis Cup - GB v Croatia
Wimbledon, 21-23 September 2007



By Oliver Brett

T Henman
Henman rolled back the years with some vintage volleys
Davis Cup, World Group play-off
Date: 21-23 Sept
Venue: Court One, Wimbledon
Watch: BBCi, BBC Sport website
Listen: Updates on BBC Radio 5live
Updates: BBC Sport website and mobile

Tim Henman gave Great Britain a 2-0 Davis Cup lead over Croatia in his final weekend as a tennis pro, amid emotional scenes at Wimbledon.

Despite posting just six singles wins in 2007, Henman's sheer know-how on grass courts made him far too tough an opponent for Roko Karanusic.

He won in straight sets after Andy Murray had needed five against the giant 18-year-old Marin Cilic.

Henman said: "It was very special. I'm so pleased with the way I played."

With uncertainty over whether he would play in Saturday's doubles, or take part in a final singles rubber on Sunday, he went on: "If required, I'll be back because the job's not done.

It's been a long journey. The crowd has given me so much support over the years

Tim Henman

"We've got options tomorrow, but we'll have a chat and discuss how everyone's feeling."

He was particularly happy with the quality of his tennis following an indifferent season.

"I just tried to hit the ball really well and I think it showed in my performance.

"It's been a long journey. The crowd has given me so much support over the years.

"(Wimbledon's) a most special place for me to play, so thanks so much," he added, turning to the supporters who have followed him so loyally since the early 1990s.

Croatia's preparations were seriously hit by injuries.

Already robbed of Ivo Karlovic (ranked 30th) because of a dispute and Mario Ancic (46th) because of injury and illness, they were further derailed on Friday morning.

World number 12 Ivan Ljubicic, due to face Henman, reported with a urinary infection and the eastern Europeans had to go with their fourth and fifth choice players.

But the fans were still determined to give the home team every extra incentive they could.

There were times when Henman's silky footwork belied his advancing years - he recently turned 33 - and his opponent, 164th in the world, was rarely a match for him.

Karanusic was initially broken in only the third game.

Andy Murray
Murray played some strong tennis, but showed inconsistency

Henman volleyed confidently on deuce and then played a second volley, this time on the backhand side, to win the game.

It gave him all the confidence he needed to cruise to 5-4, but a few typical Henman nerves then reduced him to 0-30 as he served for the set.

Karanusic hit four consecutive returns out of court, however, and the first set went to Great Britain.

The Croatian was broken again midway through the second set, passed at the net as Henman reeled off a perfect backhand down the line.

The Briton forced his opponent into errors, but was again rather gifted the set when Karanusic, serving but still a break down at 3-5, went wide with an easy overhead.

More vintage volleying from Henman gave him a 5-1 lead in the third.

But he tensed up a little, losing a couple of games, finally closing out the match when a perfect backhand forced Karanusic wide of court.

The Croatian's attempted lob went up, but dropped wide and Henman had won 6-4 6-3 6-3.

Earlier, Murray's lack of match practice in a summer dogged by injuries showed as he lost the first and fourth sets.

But he ultimately prevailed over his 18-year-old opponent, winning 3-6 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-3.

Cilic, ranked 108 in the world and standing 6ft 5in tall, settled into his game much more quickly and sent down some intimidating serves early on.

The threat of a shock defeat for Murray, ranked 90 places above his opponent, loomed heavily in the second set.

I've had a tough year and to play a match like that after such a long period of not really playing well was tough

Andy Murray

Twice reduced to 0-30 on serve, he had to dig deep before Cilic, serving at 4-5, faltered for the first time in the match.

A sharp backhand volley gave the Scot two set points, and after saving the first Cilic hit a wild forehand long and wide.

Murray won the third with some impressive tennis to lead 2-1 but Cilic bounced back again to set up a final set.

Surprised to see their man stretched so far, the crowd spurred Murray on for one last effort.

He responded, to go 3-0 up, and finally began to play with some sustained confidence.

At 5-3, a strong serve down the middle put him 30-15 up, Cilic's weak return set up two match points and one more netted backhand by the Croatian made it 1-0 to Great Britain.

Murray said: "I think the whole team wants to play well for Tim and I was a bit nervous at the start before I settled down.

"I've had a tough year and to play a match like that after such a long period of not really playing well was tough.

"The momentum was going with me going into the fourth set and I played a rubbish three games to go behind and started to play better towards the end."


Friday
Andy Murray bt Marin Cilic GB 1-0 Croatia
Tim Henman bt Roko Karanusic GB 2-0 Croatia

Saturday (1300)
Tim Henman & Jamie Murray v Marin Cilic & Lovro Zovko

Sunday (1100)
Andy Murray v Roko Karanusic
Followed by: Tim Henman v Marin Cilic



SEE ALSO
Youngsters lack desire - Henman
17 Sep 07 |  Tennis


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