‘I was 20 and ranked 180. He is the world No1’

Tim Hen­man can see the sim­i­lar­i­ties to his Wim­ble­don ejec­tion in 1995, but can­not ex­cuse Djokovic’s ac­tions

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Us Open - In­ter­view By Si­mon Briggs The Daily Tele­graph. The Sun,

Talk about smart re­cruit­ment. Even be­fore Sun­day night’s drama, Ama­zon Prime’s use of Tim Hen­man as a stu­dio pun­dit had been an im­por­tant plank in its cov­er­age. Then, when No­vak Djokovic made the costli­est un­forced er­ror of his ca­reer, Hen­man was per­fectly placed to com­ment.

At the top level of the game, this sort of de­fault had hap­pened only three times over the past 30 years. De­nis Shapo­valov was ejected from a Davis Cup match in 2017, David

Nal­ban­dian from Queen’s Club in 2012, and Hen­man him­self from Wim­ble­don in 1995, the year he ac­ci­den­tally struck a ball girl in the head dur­ing a dou­bles match.

“There were dis­tinct sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween my case and No­vak’s,” Hen­man told

“We both hit the ball away in frus­tra­tion and de­served a de­fault. Where they’re very dif­fer­ent is that I was 20 years old, had just won my first sin­gles match at Wim­ble­don a cou­ple of days be­fore, and was ranked about 180. Whereas Djokovic is the world No1.

“I did the press con­fer­ence straight af­ter. The first ques­tion was, ‘How do you feel about be­ing the first per­son in 120 years to be dis­qual­i­fied at Wim­ble­don?’ It was hard, be­ing a Bri­tish player, and es­pe­cially when you add in my fam­ily his­tory [Hen­man’s ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents, Henry and Su­san Billing­ton, both played Wim­ble­don in the 1950s, while Ellen Stan­well-Brown, his great-grand­mother, is re­puted to have been the first woman to serve over­arm].

“I was shar­ing a flat with [Bri­tish con­tem­po­rary] Andrew Richard­son, later the best man at my wed­ding. The next morn­ing he bought all the news­pa­pers, en­joy­ing a good laugh at my ex­pense. I re­mem­ber on the back page of the head­line was, ‘He hit it so hard he could have killed her’. That was a mas­sively in­ac­cu­rate and un­help­ful quote from [fiery Amer­i­can player] Jeff Tarango.

“I re­mem­ber read­ing the news that day and think­ing, ‘This is not do­ing me any favours. I am never go­ing to read them again’. I think that helped me play­ing at Wim­ble­don from then on. I was al­ways sin­gle-minded, never think­ing about what was be­ing said or writ­ten about me. I also thought, ‘I had bet­ter have some de­cent re­sults or I am go­ing to be re­mem­bered as the guy who got dis­qual­i­fied at Wim­ble­don’.

“I was al­ways pas­sion­ate about what I was do­ing, and loved the game. But some­times peo­ple just need a lit­tle added in­cen­tive. I knew I had to knuckle down – and if you look at my re­sults the rest of the year, I fin­ished in the top 100.”

Cri­sis man­age­ment: Tim Hen­man presents flow­ers to the ball girl he ac­ci­den­tally hit

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