One of the most successful British tennis players of the Open Era, Tim Henman had the distinction of being the first British man since Roger Taylor, in 1973, to reach the singles semi-finals at Wimbledon. Indeed, he did so in 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002, but never reached the final.
In 1998, Henman, seeded 12, beat subsequently disgraced Czech Petr Korda, seeded 3, in straight sets in his quarter-final to set up a semi-final clash with reigning champion Pete Sampras. In what he later described as the ‘most intense match of my life at that stage’, Henman lost in four sets and did so again, to the same opponent, at the same stage, in 1999, emphasising his ‘nearly-man’ status.
In 2001, Henman faced unseeded Croatian Goran Ivanisevic in a semi-final that was played over the course of three days due to rain delays. He lost the first set 7-5, but battled back to win the second 7-6 and the third 6-0, having lost just four points. He led 2-1 in the fourth set when rain arrived, but when play resumed the following day, Ivanisevic fought his way back from the brink of defeat to level the match in a tie-breaker. After just five games of the deciding set, with Ivanisevic leading 3-2, play was suspended again and did not resume until the following afternoon. When it did, the Croatian converted his third break point to lead 5-3 and served out the match to win 7-5, 6-7, 0-6, 7-6, 6-3.
After his third semi-final defeat, Henman said, ‘Unfortunately, my best was not good enough this year but I certainly know I’ll be back for many more tries.’ However, he reached the Wimbledon semi-finals just once more, in 2002, when a straight sets defeat by Lleyton Hewitt extinguished his chances of reaching the final in SW19 for a fourth and final time.