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Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Wednesday, 18 June 2008 17:55 UK

Henman ready for new chapter

Wimbledon: Monday 23 June to Sunday 6 July
Coverage:
BBC TV, BBCi, Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website.

By Piers Newbery

Tim Henman
Henman made his final appearance at in the Davis Cup last September
Tim Henman returns to Wimbledon as part of the BBC commentary team for the first time on Monday.

The 34-year-old retired from tennis after last September's Davis Cup victory over Croatia at Wimbledon, ending a career that included four semi-finals at Wimbledon, one each at the US and French Opens, and 11 ATP titles.

Henman reached a career-high ranking of four in the world in July 2002 and was the British number one for most of his 14-year-career.

He talked to BBC Sport ahead of his return to the All England Club.

Tim, what have you been up to since we last saw you in action in the Davis Cup?

"I'd love to be able to list a whole string of achievements but there's been lots of golf, being at home, I've had a couple of real holidays without always looking over your shoulder when you've got to get back for training or tournaments.

You get labelled a boring idiot but I wasn't in a popularity contest

Tim Henman
I went skiing as well, which hadn't been on the agenda for 25 years, so no complaints. It's been brilliant, I never envisaged that I'd be having this much fun."

When did you decide you wanted to do some media work?

"I thought I'd do it at some stage but I am probably surprised that I'm doing it the first year. It was Paul Davies from the BBC that initiated the conversation in March time and I began to think about it. I ended up having a long conversation with John Lloyd about it. It was just his reaction, he completely raved about it and said it was so much fun.

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Obviously Wimbledon speaks for itself, it's somewhere I've loved playing at and just being there on any occasion. He talked about the whole fortnight, the crew, the team that you're working with, and said it's absolutely brilliant. I thought, 'Wow, he's pretty adamant about it.'

The more I thought about it, the more it really appealed. I was probably going to be at Wimbledon in some capacity, with my sponsors, and I thought in actual fact I'd really like to be there doing the TV side of things."

Will returning to Wimbledon this year make the transition from player to pundit easier?

"I think the first Monday it could be a shock. I might walk in and my body will be going in a slightly different direction, following the route that I've taken for years and years heading in from the transport to the desk to the locker room. I'm really looking forward to being there in a different capacity.

I'd never say that I felt pressure and expectation but when I retired from the Davis Cup, I got home Sunday night and the next morning I went out for a long walk with our dogs and I was suddenly thinking, 'Wow, no more tennis'. There was an amazing sense of freedom and I really felt that a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders, but if you'd have said to me the day before, 'Do you have a big weight on your shoulders?', I would have said: 'No, not at all'.

I've felt pressure from within and the standards that I set myself but I'd never felt any expectation or things like that. But suddenly when I retired there was a huge release, so therefore there obviously was a certain amount of pressure that I put on myself. That's why, since I retired, I've just had an unbelievably good time."

After losing last year you said you would be back to play at Wimbledon again - did you secretly know that you wouldn't?

"No, I thought I would be. It was when I started to prepare for the US hard-court season and I really started to struggle with my back again - and that had been an ongoing process over the previous 18 months, two years. That was the first time I questioned, 'Hang on, what am I trying to achieve here?' I wasn't really able to prepare or practise the way I wanted and then I questioned, 'In actual fact, do I really want to be doing this?'

Tim Henman
Henman lost to Feliciano Lopez at last year's Championships
You put all the travel and my family into the equation - and at that stage my wife was probably seven months pregnant with my third child - and for the first time ever I thought maybe I should think about knocking this on the head. I'd always thought my last match would be at Wimbledon but there was no way I was going to just hang around to play at The Championships.

Then it turned out we were going to play Davis Cup at Wimbledon, so suddenly it felt like all the pieces just fell into place. Then you look at that weekend, how well I played and the outcome of the matches, it couldn't have been any better."

So since you retired have you ever sat down and thought, 'I fancy watching a bit of tennis?'

"I did watch a bit of Nadal and Djokovic in the Queen's final. There have been bits and pieces. My physio and fitness trainer, Johan de Beer, worked with Federer for the last three months of the year up until the Masters Cup and my daughter gets on really well with him, so she was always quite keen to watch him on TV.

I watched a few of Roger's matches at the end of last year, I've seen a couple of Andy Murray matches this year and a few of Roger's - I watched a bit more of Queen's because I thought I'd better try and keep up to date! I've kept in touch a little bit but I've hardly hit a ball myself, maybe three or four occasions. I can't say that I really miss it."

How do you reflect on the annual media circus that is Wimbledon for the British number one?

"It is a circus. It shouldn't make the difference between Andy playing well and playing badly. You've just got to get the blinkers on and what's written and what's said is irrelevant. It's sort of part of our culture. It was something that I got used to very quickly and I think likewise with Andy.

He needs to be fit and healthy first and foremost. He had a rough week at Queen's so fingers crossed, come Monday there aren't going to be any issues physically, because he can play very, very well on grass. I think he's got a good chance."

What would constitute a good Wimbledon for Murray?

"You want to start off getting into the second week, that's the first objective, but the last 16 is his best result in a Grand Slam so to try and improve on that would be a great result."

Is Henmania - or Murraymania - something you can block out for the whole two weeks?

"To a certain extent you don't want to block it all out because the support that you have is just unbelievable, it's second to none, something that you dream of. I was lucky enough on play nearly all my matches on Centre Court or Court One. I think if you've got the right mentality you can use that to your advantage. I look back at a lot of my matches at Wimbledon and I definitely played some of my best tennis there.

I thrived in those conditions, first and foremost because it was great fun, unbelievable atmospheres. I think Andy's similar, he's not someone who's going to be intimidated or suppressed by that. I think he can use it to his advantage and it's a big, big asset."

Was it difficult to handle being thrown into the media spotlight every year?

"It just never appealed to me, I was never really into the whole fame game. With due respect, it's media talk, it doesn't mean anything and it's not going to make me a better player. I think that attitude served me pretty well because there's so much crap - for want of a better word - written, why bother reading it?

Tim Henman
Henman made a public apology after hitting a ball girl with a ball in 1995
It's funny, I remember in the early days I might read something about myself in absolute amazement and think 'Where on earth did they dream that up?' You turn the page and read something about David Beckham and you go, 'Wow, that must be true' and you think, 'Hang on a minute, where's the consistency here?'

So probably from 1995, when I got disqualified - and that was a pretty steep learning curve - that was a lesson I learned that I'm just not going to bother reading it. From that moment on I read so little about myself."

You've said that in press conferences you would censor yourself....

"Yeah, it was my defence mechanism. There was a right answer and a truthful answer, and I gave the right answer. Then you get labelled a boring idiot but I wasn't in a popularity contest. My friends and my family knew that there was a different person but that was my way to try and keep a lid on the expectations and hysteria that goes with it. You're never going to please everyone."

So what do you think about bringing out a biography when you're 21 called 'Hitting Back', as Murray has done recently?

(Laughs) "Well, it wouldn't be my choice but it's a choice. He's perfectly entitled to that but it just wasn't for me. I've been asked lots of times about them and whether I'm going to do one but I'd be very, very surprised if you ever read one written by me."

Interviewer: "Ever?"

"Yeah, ever. I don't see the point of it. Money's the underlying theme but, to me, I'm a private person and I know what my story is, those around me know what my story is, so why am I going to tell everyone else. It's not wrong, it's just a decision and Andy's perfectly entitled to that. And we need a bit of perspective. It's not for me but it's not the most controversial thing that's ever happened, it's a book.

"I remember the whole thing with the LTA when the juniors were found messing about and they stuck up a few pictures [on the internet] pretending to be drunk. Is it the right thing to be doing as a young professional? Probably not, but is it breakfast television news that some 17-year-olds are messing about on facebook? It's very easy for perspective to be lost and that kind of goes with the territory."

So with your new analyst's hat on, who will we be watching in the men's final on 6 July?

"I'm really going to go out on a limb here - Federer and Nadal. Roger's a good friend so I hope and I want Roger to win, but it's amazing how much Nadal has improved.

I'd like to think there aren't any scars for Roger from Roland Garros but it's so tight┐ It's brilliant, that's why it's so exciting this year, and Djokovic is damn good as well. And there's a whole host of others behind those three."


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