What happened to Britain's men in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon? Twenty-four hours earlier Tim Henman had beaten Richard Krajicek, last year's winner and the No. 4 seed. In his first match Greg Rusedski had eliminated Mark Philippousis, winner at Queen's and the No. 7 seed. Although both Britons (Rusedski was raised in Canada but his mother is British) had already defeated more highly ranked players than their unseeded quarter-final opponents, they were terrible. Henman called his match against Michael Stich 'my worst experience on a tennis court'. He couldn't get a first serve in. He stayed back on the second serve and couldn't get that in either. He couldn't return. He missed volleys (against Krajicek he volleyed like Edberg). Even his famed composure deserted him: he began muttering to himself; he smashed a racket into his bag in frustration; he sulked. If Henman looked flat, Rusedski looked jittery. He rushed everything. He snatched at his volleys. He snatched at his towel. He ate his banana too quickly. He stalked about the court with cartoonish resolve. When at the end of the match he complained of fatigue, one could see why: he'd been tight as a drum.
LRB 31 July 1997 | PDF Download