So we waited patiently thinking that Sampras was older, wouldn’t play for ever, and that Henman’s time would come. And then of course Roger Federer’s time came instead.
Just as in the Wild West there was always another young gunslinger arriving with a quicker draw, so it seems in tennis there’s always a new kid on the block to challenge the established order. It’s why many fear that as Andy Murray reaches his 23rd birthday this Spring, his chance of ever being world number one might already have come and gone.
Murray has eased gently into the new season by warming up in Perth an the Hopman Cup. His fledgling partnership with Laura Robson earned a 2-1 win against Russia that took them into the final.
And he has been away and done his annual two-week “boot camp” in Florida to brush up his fitness ready for the new season.
On court he looks relaxed; he has had a smile and a laugh with Robson that clearly put her at ease too, and given off good vibes for the campaign that’s about to begin in earnest.
But if you are tempted to think that Federer’s era is drawing to a close, that Rafael Nadal too has slid from his peak, and that Novak Djokovic was a fleeting phenomenon, then comes a reminder from former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash today that it’s now a top five who are out there ahead of the rest of the pack.
Cash reckons that Murray can still be number one, but that it will be Juan Martin del Potro who will be his biggest rival.
“Del Potro is the danger guy of the whole lot of them”, he says.
And it is a fair shout. Del Potro is 21, the age at which tennis players seem to hit their peak, and will go into the Australian Open with the confidence gained from winning the US Open when he shocked Federer in the final last September.
Murray reached the world number two ranking for a fortnight in August last year before falling prey to one of the niggling injuries that he still seems prone to collect. Whether he can remain injury-free and step his game up by that one extra gear required to win a first Grand Slam in 2010 remains to be seen.
Five things you might not know about Pat Cash:
1. Full name Patrick Hart Cash, he’s one of only four players to have won both the junior and senior Wimbledon titles. Bjorn Borg, Stefan Edberg and Roger Federer are the other three
2. His 1987 Wimbledon men’s title was the last won by a player using a traditional racquet
3. He is a qualified healer in Reiki, a Japanese alternative treatment said to work by transferring ‘healing energy’ from the hands during a massage
4. A fanatical amateur guitarist – and taught by Rolling Stones star Ronnie Wood – he’s jammed on stage at different times with bands including Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Bad Company, The Cult and The Pretenders
5. He’s now a vegetarian, although he admits “not too strict – if I go to Japanese restaurant Nobu I just have to have the Wagyu beef”.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
MORE: The latest football news
MORE: The latest tennis news