Tim Henman bemoans ‘devastating loss’ lauds resilience of greatest player

TIM Henman called Andy Murray’s four-set defeat to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final a “devastating loss”.

That was reflected in Murray’s tearful on-court speech at the end of the match and Henman, who lost in four Wimbledon semi-finals without going one step further, felt the Scot needed to press home his advantage when seemingly in control.

The 25-year-old led by a set and was pushing for a break in the second set, but defying the run of play Federer stole in to take the crucial 12th game against the serve to level the match. “It is a devastating loss,” Henman said on BBC1. “First and foremost, congratulations to Roger Federer. It was crucial that he won the second set and, when the roof closed it favoured Federer as his indoor record would benefit him. His third and fourth sets were faultless.”

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“In the second set you felt like Murray was the one putting pressure on Federer,” Henman said.“But it was the game at 5-6 in the second set where Federer played a couple of great points at 30-all, finished off with a little drop volley to suddenly get to a set all (that was crucial).

“As rain delays go, it was probably as good a time as you could have one. It was one-all in the third set, but when that roof was closed Federer’s ball-striking and his timing was just immaculate. He went through the gears and played an incredible last two sets.”

Henman could only admire the performance from 30-year-old Federer, who will return to No 1 in the world rankings, taking the top rung for the first time since losing it after the 2010 French Open, and matching Pet Sampras’ record of 286 weeks at the pinnacle.

“It’s not getting any easier for him,” Henman said. “I don’t think he plays as consistently as he did perhaps a couple of years ago, but when he plays his best tennis it’s better than anybody else’s. He’s looking to attack, he’s looking to dictate with his serve and his forehand, and that’s where he’s still so dangerous.”

Murray’s former coach Mark Petchey believes the only way his former charge could have seen off Federer was to get the job done quickly. And when Federer levelled the match, one-time British No 1 Petchey feared the worst.

He said: “Once Roger got himself out of a little bit of a hole in the second set, it was always going to be a long road back. Even though Roger was the older man, the longer it went on the more it was going to benefit him because Andy has been on court four hours longer (during the tournament), plus there’s the emotional strain of trying to win your first grand slam against a guy who has won six times here.

“I thought the first set was crucial (for Murray) to stand any chance of winning. It was one of those matches where I felt he had to do it in straight sets and he had some chances in the second, but Roger’s first serve was amazing.

“When he hits it the way he does, I know it’s not the fastest but it’s going to keep you quiet for long stretches of the match.

“It’s not the first time Roger has been down in a Wimbledon final. He would have expected Andy to come out firing at him, he knew he needed to weather the storm and, if he could, then his experience and the way he plays on a grass court would see im through.”

Petchey, who coached Murray from June 2005 to April 2006, also believes the world No 4 needs to develop more resilience to compete in longer matches against the elite players. “I don’t think Andy’s as good a player over five sets,” he said. “He had to play the immaculate match all the way through. If he didn’t, you sensed Roger would get the upper hand.”