Henman deserves more praise - Felgate

Last updated at 09:43 02 June 2005

Britain's top tennis administrator David Felgate believes Tim Henman has unfairly become the country's most maligned sportsman.

Felgate, performance director of the Lawn Tennis Association and Henman's former coach, admits he sometimes struggles to keep his cool over the treatment he believes is dished out by the press and the public towards the British number one, gearing up once again for Wimbledon later this month.

Felgate said: "What he does at Wimbledon is the equivalent of finishing in the top five of the British Open golf every year.

"In football terms he would be picked for a world starting XI for the last six years, how many soccer players can you say that about?

"It is absolutely mind-blowing. I would like to meet anybody else who has made the world's top four at what they do. You could count them on the fingers of one hand."

Felgate believes Henman, at 30, still has rampant ambitions to win Wimbledon and repay the faith his army of fans have had in him despite four semi-finals being as close as he has come to glory in SW19.

Felgate said: "I don't think he has even given a thought to retiring. He could win Wimbledon this year, of course he could. It is still his dream to do that.

"You've now got [Roger] Federer, [Andy] Roddick, [Lleyton] Hewitt and [Sebastien] Grosjean on the scene but Tim can handle them all on the right day (on grass). Don't tell people to retire. Who are any of us to do that when they are performing in front of thousands of people, doing something they love?

Tim can deal with the pressure - Felgate

"Tim is going in ranked nine or 10 and he's a different person now. He can still deal with the pressures of wanting to win Wimbledon."

Felgate, two years into his new British tennis role, was speaking on a typical early June day as fans sat and watched the rain drizzle down at the Surbiton Trophy tournament where, on the third day, only 30 minutes play was possible before it was abandoned for the session.

Greg Rusedski, the British number two, was one of the frustrated contenders for the £27,608 (50,000 US dollars) men's prize waiting to get on court, but Felgate, who also "manages" him in the British Davis Cup team, thinks Rusedski is far from finished.

"Greg has played really well this year," said Felgate.

"But he has had a lot of tough draws against Roddick and Tim but he has been up to 39 in the world and could be seeded at Wimbledon.

"I'm sure he's going to give it his best shot. People are asking how long will he go on now but when you are a sportsman you just love proving people wrong. It keeps you going."

Among Felgate's job remit is overhauling the search for young British talent because "you only miss people like Tim and Greg when they are gone".

The emergence of Barcelona-based Scottish teenager Andrew Murray, who carried off the US Open junior crown last year and has continued his rich promise, but Felgate said: "I don't want to put too much pressure on Andy. He is an outstanding talent and, hopefully, there are other youngsters out there in his class."

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