Rio 2016 Olympics: Tim Henman reflects on on Andy Murray’s gold medal success
"I think it is safe to say he is the greatest British player of all-time," admits Tim Henman
With two Wimbledon titles, one US Open crown, a Davis Cup and now three Olympic medals – two of them gold – Andy Murray’s place in tennis history is already secure.
Yet Tim Henman would go even further – believing Murray to be undoubtedly the greatest British tennis player of all-time, among the greatest British sportsmen in history and now also worthy of a conversation about his standing among the greatest tennis player of all-time, regardless of nationality.
The Scot has developed a real habit of making history. First home Wimbledon winner in 77 years, inspiring a first Davis Cup win in 79 years, a British record 11 Grand Slam final appearances and now, the only man to defend an Olympic men’s singles title.
That latest feat was remarkable – completing a 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Juan Martin del Potro on Sunday that took a little more than four gruelling hours on court.
Fittingly, nine days after Murray carried the flag for Team GB at the opening ceremony, he wrapped himself in the flag upon victory, leaving former world No4 Henman in no doubt about his brilliance.
“I think it is safe to say he is the greatest British player of all-time,” said Henman, who was speaking at the HSBC Road to Wimbledon national finals, hosted at the home of The Championships and the conclusion of the national tournament that has been helping discover the next generation of tennis stars since 2008.
“It is different going back to Fred Perry because it is a different era but when you look at what he has achieved and what he will go on to achieve, it will be a more relevant conversation to say ‘where does he stand in the world game’s [best of all-time]’.
“It is a numbers game then about how many Grand Slams he ends up winning but what he has achieved has been incredible to watch.
“Djokovic has had a couple of surprising loses at Wimbledon and the Olympics but I would still say he is the favourite going into the US Open.
“He won in Toronto or Montreal a couple of weeks ago so he is obviously still playing well but I would put Murray a close second favourite – he’s in the form of his life and capable of winning everything and anything presently.”
Henman’s assertion that Murray is in the form of his life is not just hyperbole. Almost everything the 29-year-old has touched this summer has turned to gold.
A first-ever French Open final at Roland Garros was followed by a second Wimbledon crown which was followed by a second Olympic gold.
Winning the US Open, which starts a fortnight from now, for a second time would cap it all off perfectly.
And Henman is convinced his steely determination will stand him in good stead as he attempts to fight off any potential fatigue.
“Andy has always been a phenomenal competitor and also match-player – he has always been able to read the game very well,” he added.
“He finds a way to win and when you are talking about the game at the highest level, it is not always about playing your best and everything looking perfect.
“It is about beating the opponent on the other side of the net.”
As a noted sports fan, Murray has always embraced the Olympic experience – perhaps too much in Beijing in 2008 when he suffered a shock defeat in the first round.
Four years ago in London, he used his traditional Wimbledon game plan, staying at home and detaching himself from all distractions. Singles gold and mixed doubles silver were his reward.
In Rio it appeared he’d strayed from that winning formula, as he gave his time freely to team-mates, who all wanted a picture or the chance to grab a seat near him at breakfast.
Yet he reaped the rewards and made history nonetheless.
Henman couldn’t fault Murray for soaking it all in at the Games – he did the same himself during a playing career which included men’s doubles silver alongside Neil Broad at Atlanta 1996 – and acknowledges the Olympics provide a unique set-up for tennis stars.
“I think the Olympics is very different to anything else because when you are playing in the biggest tennis tournaments around the world then you are the focal point,” said Henman.
“But with the Olympics, there are so many other events and venues going on around you and it can be a distraction.
“It was an amazing experience and I went to the opening ceremonies in each of the three Olympics and they were three of the most enjoyable moments in my sporting career.”
Tim Henman is an HSBC ambassador. HSBC is the Official Banking Partner of The Championships and is committed to supporting tennis from the back garden to Centre Court. Follow @HSBC_Sport