In Andy Murray, British tennis found the hero it was crying out for. When he hoisted the US Open trophy aloft in 2012, he became the first male Grand Slam champion these shores had seen since Fred Perry in 1936.
He would, of course, go on to collect two Wimbledon titles, with a couple of Olympic gold medals, a historic Davis Cup triumph and an ATP Tour Finals crown added to the pot for good measure. At the end of 2016, Murray sat on top of the world as the undisputed No.1 in an era loaded with record-setting talents.
Before him, many hopes had been hung around the neck of Oxford native Tim Henman. He would retire with a ‘nearly man’ tag proving impossible to shake, but a lack of tangible success was not for any lack of trying.
He paved the way for what was to come, with tennis odds now seeing British stars such as Cam Norrie figure prominently once more. Tennis tipsters are prepared to side with home-grown talents, with serious contenders for the most prestigious of prizes emerging in both the male and female formats of the game.
Many of those will have looked to Henman for inspiration when taking their own tentative steps down a path that has ultimately led to the very top of a professional game. Murray went on to raise the bar for a whole new generation, but it was his predecessor that picked that pole up off the floor.
It is for that reason that Henman deserves plenty of praise. He emerged onto the scene at a time when top 10 rankings and surges into the second week of major events were becoming a distant memory. British tennis had become stuck in a serious rut, and he was the one to drag them out of it.
He will have had plenty of regrets when the time came to call it a day, with his career littered with tales of what could have been. Anybody who witnessed that epic Wimbledon semi-final clash with Goran Ivanisevic in 2001 will feel that a shot at ultimate glory would have been fully deserved.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) April 5, 2020
Semi-finals were made at three of the Slams, with Australia proving to be the toughest market to crack, but last-four hurdles proved impossible to clear at every turn. Where Henman toiled, Murray was able to prevail.
He has several final defeats on his CV, with heartache Down Under delivering an all too familiar theme, but the Scot picked up a useful habit of finding a way of getting the job done and at least giving himself a shot at ultimate accolades.
Few before or after him have been able to master that art, with the hope being that Norrie can avoid slipping into the same trap that snapped at Henman’s heels regularly. He has been shown what is required to make that leap from contender to champion. Murray was the man to break down that door 10 years ago, but it was Henman that started to pick the lock.