Wimbledon should have started today but we’re left with an ‘enormous void’ says Laureus Ambassador T

Today was scheduled to be Day One at Wimbledon 2020, and Laureus Ambassador and British tennis legend Tim Henman was expecting to be commentating on the opening matches and perhaps be giving a cheery wave to the adoring fans sitting on Henman Hill. 
Instead, as a Board Member of the All England Club, he had to be one of those who made the decision in April to pull the plug on this year’s event because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was the first time since the Second World War that Wimbledon has not happened, and for Henman it marked a personal break with something precious that has been part of his life for almost 40 years.
In an interview with, Tim said: “On a personal level, it will be the first Championships that I haven't been to since 1981. So, yes, it's left an enormous void.”
Could Wimbledon have been played later? “With grass courts and the window of when you can play the event, it is limited. Looking at the calendar and other tournaments, cancellation was the only option,” said Tim.
Tim is now on lockdown with his wife and daughters in their home in South Oxfordshire. He said: “We live in a small village, so it’s certainly been helpful to have a little bit of space. My daughters are 17, 15 and 12, so they've been able to get back into remote learning. My parents and my in-laws are isolated and being very cautious, but remain in good health so that is positive.”
However he believes that the coronavirus pandemic could have a significant impact on tennis.
“There is a dialogue going on about the possibilities of a merger between the men's and women's tour. The devil will be in the detail, it's not something that's going to happen overnight. But I think, as I've heard a lot of people say, you can't turn down the opportunities in a crisis. 
“When I look at tennis as a whole, the communication and the leadership of our sport needs to improve. You have the ATP and the WTA, the two tours of the men and the women, you have the International Tennis Federation (ITF) which for me, should be the custodian of our sport. But then you have the four Grand Slams - they're not governing bodies, but they are the biggest events in our sport. 
“So you can look at seven different entities within our sport. And I think it's really important that the collaboration and the partnerships improve moving forward so that we can potentially come out of this episode in a stronger and a better position.”
Henman praises the creation of a Relief Fund to support tennis players who have been badly hit by the pandemic.
“They earn their money on the court or endorsement deals and when the tours have ground to a halt, there’s a whole network of people around who will not be earning, that will be coaches, trainers, physiotherapists. It could be officials.
“Once we realized the situation we were in. There was a Relief Fund set up, individual Grand Slams, the International Tennis Federation, as well as the ATP and the WTA, because it's really important we support these players and the network around tennis in these challenging times. But there's certainly more that will need to be done in the future,” he added.

Tim says he always felt massively fortunate that Wimbledon was his home event. He started playing at a very young age with his two older brothers and parents.
“My mum took me on the first Monday in 1981 and I was lucky enough to be on Centre Court that day. I saw Björn Borg play who had won the five previous years. So he was definitely a huge idol, and a huge inspiration for me. And that's when I made my one and only career decision.
“Reflecting on my career, fast forward 15 years to 1996, when I got my first opportunity to play on Centre Court. I felt like this was what the previous 15 years had been about, preparing myself to have that opportunity of playing in the biggest tournament, but also on the best court,” said Tim.
What are his most memorable matches at Wimbledon?
“That first match on Centre Court was very special. I played Yevgeny Kafelnikov who was the French Open champion, who was No.3 in the world. And I saved two match points and beat him 7-5 in the fifth.
“The following year I played on the middle Sunday, which has only happened three times in the history of the Championships, and it certainly wasn't the best match I ever played, but in terms of the atmosphere, the crowd was incredible. The fans had queued overnight to get in, there were no tickets. And when we walked on the court, there was a Mexican wave. The atmosphere was just incredible and I saved a match point that day and won 14-12 in the fifth against a Dutchman Paul Haarhuis.
“And then a couple years later, 2001, to play Federer who had just beaten Sampras the round before who was the King of Wimbledon at that time. I beat Federer in the quarter finals and I think with what he's gone on to achieve, not only at Wimbledon, but in the world game, to beat him on Centre Court, Wimbledon is a good one to have on the CV.”
Uniquely Tim Henman’s very special relationship with Wimbledon is marked by having a part of the ground unofficially named after him – Henman Hill.
“When the new Court One was being built, the way it was constructed, you had the terrace outside where they constructed the big screen. And that was when I was playing a lot of my matches on Centre Court and Court One, and the name pretty much stuck with the media and the fans. It’s official name is actually Aorangi Terrace, but I think Henman Hill has got a better ring to it.” 

As well as being a keen supporter of Laureus, as a global Ambassador, Tim has his own charitable foundation to help young people. 
“The Tim Henman Foundation was launched in 2000 while I was still playing. In the last six years it’s been relaunched as I’ve been able to invest a lot more time. We support education and health for disadvantaged young people. I was very lucky to get an education on the back of my tennis. I was offered a scholarship with the David Lloyd Academy and then to, to go to Reed's School in Cobham. 
“So I always wanted to try and support education, but also in the same breath, our health is our most important thing. So, you know, if I can help in those two areas then I feel like we can really give back to some of those less fortunate than us. 
“We support bursaries at different schools around the country. We talk about one life, one opportunity, and we want to make sure that the children from disadvantaged backgrounds do have the opportunity. 
“With regards to health, we have a health partner, which is Naomi House, which is a hospice not too far from where we live in South Oxfordshire, and they work with life threatened and life shortened children. They do some amazing work and, and we'll continue to support them as much as we can.
“Collaboration is so important and I was so lucky to be involved with Laureus and become an Ambassador and understand the amazing work that they're doing. That’s where I think sport is an amazing vehicle to try and help, to influence and support programmes for the disadvantaged. 
“I particularly remember a visit I made with Laureus some years ago which was a great day where a lot of kids came out to Wimbledon Park to try tennis and really experience an opportunity they probably wouldn't have had in the past. And that's where Laureus has worked with so many different projects. They do amazing work to provide so many opportunities.”

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