I'M ON MY TODD NOW; Martin's Court Short of Fans as He Bids to Spoil Hen Party

Article excerpt

Todd Martin couldn't look any more like the bad guy today if he walked out onto Centre Court wearing a cloak and a mask.

Because this easy-going American is the man all of Britain wants to see dumped on his backside.

Martin stands in the way of new Britpop sensation Tim Henman and an amazing place in the semis.

And that will turn Wimbledon into the world's biggest pantomime stage during their quarter-final clash.

Every move the dashing young hero makes will be greeted with wild cheers from the fever pitch 15,000 crowd, while the bad guy tries to stop him at every turn.

Martin knows he's not going to be Mr Popular - but he doesn't care.

After setting up his date with terror Tim with a win over Thomas Johansson yesterday, Martin was already acting like Mr Nasty.

He sneered: "Oh yeah, it's a huge advantage for Tim to be playing in front of the Centre Court fans.

"Let's face it, every tennis court measures the same as the next one, so it won't bother me.

"The way I look at it is at least I'm on Centre Court for once.

"I'll just play it like any other match once I'm out there.

"I'll have to shut out the crowd and concentrate on my own game.

"I played there against Andre Agassi two years ago and he's a real fans favourite.

"But I know I'll have even less fans rooting for me against Tim."

Wimbledon has gone crazy for 21-year-old Henman as he's bulldozed his way into the last eight at the same time as the big seeds in his half of the draw have tumbled.

The quiet Oxford lad is the first Brit to reach the quarter finals in 23 years and is just two games from smashing a 58-year hoodoo on home men in the final.

But 13th seed Martin is confident we won't need to rewrite the history books just yet. After seeing off Swede Johansson 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 he revealed he's got the psychological edge.

Martin said: "Two years ago I beat him 6-4, 6-4 at Queens - but this is going to be a different story.

"Tim has improved everything about his game. He has added weight which has helped him with his shots, his serves are better and his movement has improved.

"But most of all his composure and competitiveness are better."

Martin is known as a nearly man on the circuit - a runner-up in the 94 Aussie Open and semi-finalist in the US Open the same year. But he senses 96 could be the big one for him at Wimbers.

Henman had a rare day off yesterday after his punishing schedule of singles matches five days in a row.

As he practised in the grounds of the All-England club with giant Goran Ivanisevic, he was staying ice-cool about the biggest day of his life.

The 21-year-old received a huge boost before the big match from ex-British tennis pin-up Chris Bailey.

He reckons Henman can go all the way to the top and revealed that watching his heroics have brought back memories of the greatest match of his career.

It was an breathtaking defeat to Ivanisevic three years ago which MADE Bailey and led to a TV job.

Overnight he became a legend as he went within one point of beating the Croat star.

Bailey crashed out 7-5, 6-7, 7-6, 4-6, 7-9 - but what a performance.

The Beeb commentator admitted: "That match with Goran changed my life. Because of one game I was able to employ a full-time coach and get invitations to events I wouldn't get a sniff of before.

"Overnight I became a celebrity - and I loved it.

"I know exactly how Henman felt against Kafelnikov on Centre Court. …