When Andy Murray won his first Wimbledon crown in 2013, the spell was broken and Fred Perry, the last British champion before Andy, could finally rest in peace. A year after he died in 1995, another British player would give the home crowd a hope that lasted for almost ten years in what has been known as "Henmania."
Tim Henman, an Oxford native born in 1974, was the leading British youngster during the 90s, making Wimbledon debut at the age of 19 in 1994 and losing in the opening round to David Prinosil. A year later, he was stopped by the reigning champion Pete Sampras in round two, preparing for the first notable run in front of the partisan crowd 12 months later.
The start of Henman's 1996 campaign at the All England Club certainly wasn't the most convincing one, battling for over three and a half hours in the opening round against Yevgeny Kafelnikov, fending off two match points before prevailing 7-6, 6-3, 6-7, 4-6, 7-5.
A favorable draw propelled him into the quarter-final, becoming the first British player in the last eight at Wimbledon in 23 years before losing to Todd Martin in three close sets! The Henmania was born and over nine years, Tim would reach the quarters at Wimbledon eight times, playing in the semis on four occasions but never making that extra step that would earn him a place in the title match of the home Major!
In the third round of the 1997 edition, Tim defeated Paul Haarhuis 14-12 in the fifth set after almost four hours in front of the packed crowd on the first middle Sunday action in five years. Henman saved a match point at 4-5 in the final set to earn the triumph 16 games later, taking down the defending champion Richard Krajicek in the fourth round to enter the last eight for the second year in a row.
A former champion Michael Stich scored a comfortable 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win in under an hour and a half, as Tim had nothing left in the tank after tough encounters in the previous rounds, serving at only 48% and never creating a break chance.
It was an excellent chance for Great Britain to get the first player in the semi-final of Wimbledon since 1973 and even guaranteed the finalist. Both Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski lost their quarter-final encounters to miss a great chance and leave the home fans bitterly disappointed once again.
Henman bounced back in 1998, beating Jiri Novak in five sets en route to his first Wimbledon semi-final, forcing people to check the record books once again and talk about Fred Perry more often than ever before in the previous 60 years!
Henman played a fantastic match against Petr Korda, becoming the first British player in the semi-final since Roger Taylor in 1973.
World no. 1 and Tim's practice partner Pete Sampras took him down 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 to crash the hopes of the British nation, with the American entering another Wimbledon final and leaving Tim in ruins.
Sampras won the last four games of the opening set to settle into a nice rhythm but Henman was ready to fight, taking the second set and staying in touch with Pete in the third until game 12, having a game point to set up a tie break.
Sampras won the next three points with top-class returns for a crucial break that gave him the set and momentum ahead of the fourth. There, the American scored one break of serve which was enough to push him through, closing the match with two aces to punch the final ticket.
In 1999, Tim was in the semi-final of Wimbledon once again, following a dramatic 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-7, 9-7 fourth-round triumph over Jim Courier in four hours and 30 minutes (they had played a four-hour match in Davis Cup that April as well and Jim had a match point in that one too)!
There were 120 service winners in the encounter that stretched over three days, with Henman fending off three match points in the 12th game of the decider for his fourth straight Wimbledon quarter-final. A forehand volley gave Tim the desired break in game 15, sealing the deal on his serve in the next game to reach the last eight and give the crowd something to cheer about.
The first set was decided with a double break from Courier who then got broken in the 12th game of both the second and third sets to trail two sets to one down. The rain suspended the action in the fourth set and they continued two days later, with Jim saving a break point in the eighth game before taking the set in the tie break to set up a decider where he won three straight games from 4-2 down.
The American saved two break points in game 11 and had those three match points in the next one, denied by Henman who refused to surrender before scoring that break and closing the match with a hold at love. Tim then ousted Cedric Pioline in the quarters after the Frenchman injured his knee, having to play against his old rival Pete Sampras in another battle for the place in the Wimbledon final.
Pete was the superior player, toppling the Briton 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in under three hours, leaving Henman empty-handed once again despite taking the opener. They hit almost 100 service winners and Pete played much better from his backhand wing and at the net, creating break chances in nine different games and converting four against only two from Henman.
Sampras struggled to find the first serve, suffering two breaks in the opener and serving well until the end of the encounter to keep the pressure on Tim's side of the net. In the tenth game of the second set, Henman saved two set points to create a game point for a 5-5 but the American stayed in the game after double faults from his rival, stealing it to clinch the set 6-4 and gain momentum.
One break of serve in sets three and four was enough for Pete to bring the match home and advance into another Wimbledon final, while Tim had to wait for the next year and a new chance to go all the way in front of his partisan crowd.