ANDY'S BOMB DISPOSAL JOB; Murray Can Defuse Roddick's Dynamite Game, Says Henman

Daily Mail (London), July 3, 2009 | Go to article overview

ANDY'S BOMB DISPOSAL JOB; Murray Can Defuse Roddick's Dynamite Game, Says Henman


Byline: by MIKE DICKSON

SEVEN years have passed since he finished torturing us with his ultimately doomed attempts to reach the Wimbledon final.

But now Tim Henman believes that a player he once inspired has it in him to go at least one step further than he managed on the four occasions he made the last four at the All England Club.

Specifically, he thinks Andy Murray is a skillful enough bomb disposal expert to defuse the enormous power that will be ranged against him by big-serving Texan Andy Roddick.

Henman's four semi-finals saw him lose to the eventual champion every time and, apart from against Goran Ivanisevic in 2001, he went in as underdog on every occasion.

For his successor as British No 1 it is different. Murray is favoured to win, but, should he lose, it is unlikely to be against the man who will emerge victorious on Sunday, given Roddick's 2-18 career record against Roger Federer.

'I've got every faith that Murray can win this,' said Henman yesterday. 'He has won a Grand Slam semi-final before and that is crucial, although it will be different for him playing this one at home.

'Roddick has picked up his game this year and is in the best shape of his life. He is working with my former coach Larry Stefanki and you can see the effects paying off. When he is aggressive from the back of the court he is incredibly dangerous, but he is going to have to win a lot of free points off his serve, and against Murray that is virtually impossible.'

These players may share a Christian name but they have very different playing styles -- tennis's version of the culture club versus the crazy gang. The wisecracking American will attack his younger foe's all-round game with his enormous serve and forehand, but Henman believes Murray will soak it up.

'Roddick has got a great serve, but it is not the same as Ivo Karlovic, who regularly hits it in such a way that you cannot physically get near it,' said Henman.

'Murray has got a great technique to handle this, the way he stands a long way back and then moves forward and uses the great balance he has got.'

Henman believes Murray can increasingly be mentioned in the same sentence as Andre Agassi when it comes to his returning skills.

'If it was Andre, he would stand tight to the baseline, and he was always reluctant to change that. What Andy has got is a great reach to maximise his returning skills.'

There seem to be Andres and Andrews everywhere in this tale of a tournament that has a feel of destiny about it, ending either with a British winner for the first time in 73 years or Federer claiming a record 15th Grand Slam title.

Henman's most cautionary phrase is that it will feel 'different at home', and there is certainly no comparison between today and three weeks ago, when Murray was in the last four at Fulham's Queen's Club.

There were no queues for mere ground passes that weekend, as was already the case yesterday, and divorcing himself from the hype is getting progressively harder.

But when you think of Queen's, it is also worth remembering that Murray is on a 10-match winning grass-court streak, and he is no stranger to big semi-finals over the past 12 months.

Since Wimbledon last year he has been in 12 of them, winning nine. Of the three he lost, two were against Rafael Nadal and the other was to Nikolay Davydenko in last year's season-ending Masters Cup, when he was exhausted following a gruelling victory over Federer the night before.

Something else from which Murray can take encouragement is his record against Roddick of six wins in eight matches.

The most recent of these was at Doha in January, when Roddick got a 6-4, 6-2 drubbing, with Murray displaying the kind of form that had him installed, prematurely as it transpired, as favourite for the Australian Open.

The American has not had much success against the elite players lately, losing 11 of his last 13 matches against the top five. …

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