Tim Henman's (in)complete Wimbledon journey (Part II)



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Tim Henman's (in)complete Wimbledon journey (Part II)

As we said in the first part of the story about Tim Henman's Wimbledon quest, the Briton was one of the most consistent players at the All England Club between 1996-2004. Henman advanced into the last eight times and further four times into the semis, never earning a chance to play in the home Major's final.

After that semi-final defeat to Pete Sampras in 1999, Tim failed to reach the quarter-final for the first time in five years in 2000, suffering a severe five-setter loss against Mark Philippoussis, who barely survived the previous match against Schalken, beating him 20-18 in the deciding set!

Mark and Tim were engaged in a classic Wimbledon battle, and the Aussie was motivated to continue where he left a year ago when he had to retire against Pete Sampras while having the lead. Henman never found his rhythm in the opening set, starting to play better in the second to break Mark twice and grab the set 7-5.

The Briton converted his seventh set point in set number three to take the lead, but it was all about Philippoussis in the rest of the clash, as he broke Henman once in sets four and five for the place in the last eight.

The deciding break came in the seventh game of the fifth set and Mark closed the match with four aces at 5-4, leaving Tim mighty disappointed yet again. In 2001, Henman was back at his best at the All England Club, reaching the semi-final for the third time in four years after tight victories over Todd Martin and Roger Federer in the previous rounds.

The Briton needed three hours and 37 minutes to defeat Todd Martin in the fourth round, saving two set points in the second set tie break that could have pushed him two sets to love down! Tim had the upper hand in sets four and five to seal the deal and enter the last eight where he toppled the young Swiss Roger Federer 7-5, 7-6, 2-6, 7-6 in three hours and 13 minutes.

In the first out of three close sets, Tim broke in the 11th game and closed it with a hold at love for a 7-5, with no breaks of serve in set number two. Roger had a massive 6-3 lead in the tie break but Henman bounced back to win five straight points and steal the set, which proved to be the crucial moment of the entire match.

Federer won the third set with two breaks, returning from 5-2 down in the fourth to reach a tie break.

There, Roger was 5-2 up but it wasn't to be for him, losing the breaker 8-6 and sending Henman into his third Wimbledon semi-final.

Unlike in the first two attempts where he had to compete against Pete Sampras, Goran Ivanisevic stood between Henman and the Wimbledon final. The Croat halted the home favorite in a 7-5, 6-7, 0-6, 7-6, 6-3 thriller that took everything away from Tim!

We saw a real drama from start to finish, with 137 service winners, rain delays and only five breaks of serve. Henman somehow missed a chance to break the spell and reach the final, despite having the strings of the match firmly in his hands.

Goran had break points in just three return games, doing enough to overcome a dreadful third set (he won four points in total in six games!) and get back into contention, saved by the rain at that point of the clash. The Croat won the opening set with three consecutive return winners in game 12 and the second set went into a tie break that Henman won 8-6 to gather boost.

Goran faded from the court in set number three, earning just four points and taking a much-needed break in the fourth set after a faithful rain delay. Ivanisevic returned fresh and motivated on Saturday, taking the fourth set in the tie break when the rain sent them off the court again, shifting the final set action to Sunday, with Goran leading 3-2 in the fifth.

Henman cracked under pressure, getting broken in the eighth game on Goran's third break chance, allowing the Croat to seal the deal in game nine for the place in the final where no one could expect him when the tournament began.

The next year's edition saw Henman in the semi-final for the fourth time in five years, standing as one of the favorites alongside Lleyton Hewitt after some of the top seeds left the event before the last 16. These two would meet in the semi-final and the young Aussie scored a 7-5, 6-1, 7-5 triumph in two hours and 19 minutes for the place in his first Wimbledon final.

Lleyton's return did all the magic on that day, creating 15 break chances and converting six, getting broken only twice to control the scoreboard. They had a similar number of service winners and the advantage from the baseline was on Hewitt's side, keeping Him on just six volley and six smash winners.

Lleyton scored two breaks in each set and Tim could only fight to stay in touch in sets one and three, coming from 5-3 down but falling in each before the tie break for the sixth straight loss against the Aussie. Lleyton made nine unforced errors in the entire encounter and Tim couldn't match that pace, competing in the semi-final for the last time in front of the partisan crowd.

Despite the fact he wasn't getting any younger, Henman reached the quarter-final in 2003 and 2004 as well, playing in the last eight for the seventh and eighth time since 1996 but losing to Sebastien Grosjean and Mario Ancic.

Tim's final Wimbledon campaigns were not that memorable, struggling with a back injury and playing his last match at the home Major against Feliciano Lopez in 2007.