Tim Henman has defended Andy Murray’s contribution to British tennis ahead of a Davis Cup final appearance the former British number one admits he did not think was possible.
As Murray and the rest of the British team prepared to put aside security fears and travel to Belgium ahead of the final in Ghent, which begins on Friday, Henman was standing up for his friend in the face of criticism from David Lloyd.
Lloyd, who played in Britain’s last Davis Cup final in 1978, accused Murray of not doing enough to promote the growth of tennis in Britain.
The Scot gave his own response on Twitter on Sunday night, posting a video of himself doing strenuous training and thanking his fans for their support and “for seeing today’s criticism for exactly what it was”. He followed the message with the hashtag “bitter”.
Henman, who attracted the same criticism from Lloyd, argues that the responsibility for capitalising on the achievements of Murray lies with others.
The BBC pundit said: “I think I’d probably disagree with that, considering he’s carried the team to the Davis Cup final.
“He’s won Wimbledon, the US Open, Olympic gold. That’s the most important thing for him to do, to concentrate on his preparation and performance on the court.
“There are others that need to be responsible for taking advantage of the interest he creates in the game. But, if you ask me, I think Andy Murray is doing all right.”
Henman had Greg Rusedski as a team-mate during his own Davis Cup career but, despite both achieving a high of four in the world rankings, they were unable even to win a World Group match.
Murray has led Britain to four victories at that level in the last two years and his performances this season have been phenomenal. The only winning rubber Murray was not involved in was James Ward’s victory over the USA’s John Isner, with the Scot winning six singles matches and two doubles alongside brother Jamie.
Britain have not won the title since 1936, and Henman admitted: “I didn’t think it was possible. The theory is that one-man teams don’t win the Davis Cup.
“There have been other players who have played their part – Jamie Murray, James Ward and Leon Smith the captain – but when you look at what Andy’s done, it’s been phenomenal. And he’s got a great opportunity, and it’s one that he won’t want to miss out on. I think they’ll win 3-1 but it won’t be easy. Away on clay is never easy.”
Murray goes into the event on the back of losses to Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka at the ATP World Tour Finals, but Henman expects him to lead the team to victory.
Belgium’s hopes of causing an upset largely rest on world No 16 David Goffin, who won just one game against Murray in Paris earlier this month.
Henman said: “I think it was evident in his performance at the O2 that he was a bit distracted, and that’s perfectly acceptable when you’ve got a Davis Cup final around the corner.
“Given the atmosphere and the environment for the match in Belgium, 90 per cent of the support is going to be locals, I think that really will focus his mind. I’m sure he’ll continue as he has done all year and carry the team and do the job out there.”
Preparations for the match were continuing despite Brussels, which is just 35 miles from Ghent, staying on the highest level of terror alert.
The British team delayed travelling until yesterday and Henman, who had been planning to take his family, will now be staying at home. The 41-year-old recalled his own worrying Davis Cup journey, saying: “I was on the way to play in Davis Cup on September 11. I was flying to Miami but diverted to Bermuda and had to fly back to London.
“That was an unsettling time. It wasn’t much fun being on an airplane then, but we had the security measures in place so we could carry on and concentrate on the job in hand. Hopefully they’ll be able to do that in Ghent this weekend.”