Henman faces an unlikely opponent in Abu Dhabi. Credit: Reem Abulleil ©
With Ivan Lendl proving a huge asset to recently-crowned Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, and Jimmy Connors teaming up with Maria Sharapova, Henman was asked which legend he would like to see help a player on tour and the 38-year-old Brit chose his idol Borg.
“I would like to see Borg help some of the Swedish players,” Henman told me during a short visit to Abu Dhabi. “They’ve had such a history and tradition and now their tennis is suffering. Now that (Robin) Soderling isn’t playing, it’s amazing how there’s no one coming through. So I’d like Borg to coach a young up and coming Swede and take him to world No1.”
Henman says he can’t see himself as a coach, adding: “The problem for me is I don’t want to travel and if you’re going to coach then you’re going to travel a lot of weeks. I like being at home, being with my family.”
The four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist has experience being a mentor though, having helped Murray during the early days of the Scotsman’s career, and Henman believes there is plenty more to come from him.
With the issue of knighthood arisen and many people saying it is too soon for Murray to receive that honour and worrying about how it would affect his career, Henman weighed in on the subject saying: “I don’t think in any way it would be a hindrance to his career.
“For me in my opinion, he will be knighted at some stage. Whether 26 of age is too young… I think it’s difficult to a certain extent the government or whoever makes the decision they’ve set precedent with a lot of people who have got knighthoods. So what will be will be, I’m sure it will happen at some stage. Whether it’s better to wait until perhaps the end of Andy’s career, who knows, but it’s a nice problem to have.”
Visiting Abu Dhabi for the second time this year already, having flown in with HSBC for the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship earlier this season, Henman says he is fascinated by how much the Gulf region has developed in sport and he hopes to bring his family for another visit during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship this December, where Murray is due to join Novak Djokovic in a stellar field.
Henman has many memories in the region from his playing days, particularly in Doha where he has made the final twice. He says: “Funny enough I played in Doha and Dubai a lot. And I always played very well in Doha and I always played very averagely in Dubai and I have no idea why.
“The conditions were very much the same hard courts. I think I made quarter-finals a couple of times in Dubai but really had some disappointing results whereas in Doha I made my first final there, I think I made the final a couple of other times. I had some really good wins there.
“I’ve always enjoyed coming to this region. I think I first played Doha in 1997 when it was a new tournament and it was a real leader on the tour because we were so well looked after, great facility, very good hotel. Great for us to come from the winter in the UK and have some better weather on the way to Australia.
“And then the region has grown so much in all areas but the best for me is the sporting element now. It’s got great tennis events, it’s got great golf tournaments, it’s got Grands Prix, it’s got everything. I’ve been back to Dubai on holiday before and I’m sure it’s a region I’ll keep visiting for a long time to come.”