Lorge: British tab proclaims: 'Tim Who?'

Updated: June 24, 2005, 8:48 AM ET
By Barry Lorge | Special to ESPN.com

How quickly Britain's fickle affections can turn. Tim Henman, who was knocked out of Wimbledon in the second round on Thursday, got spanked again in the British press on Friday morning, and was quickly supplanted on the pedestal he has occupied for a decade by the lone surviving Briton in the singles: 18-year-old Scot Andrew Murray.

Henman lost not only the match, but some of his "Gentleman Tim" luster as well. The BBC's television microphones caught him grousing in ungentlemanly language to and about ball persons who were slow getting him a soft drink and an umbrella for shade during change games. Henman was also heard cursing in frustration as he was being beaten by Dmitry Tursunov. Let's say he did not bow out on Centre Court as gracefully as might have been expected.

"Unthinkably, the man who is the patron saint of teatime television at this time of year – the man, indeed, whose kit washes whitest, whatever the season – had obliged the national broadcaster to make a public declaration of its remorse," reported The Times of London. That means Henman has been Mr. Clean, probably the last person BBC executives would have thought would necessitate the statement they issued: "Swearing was broadcast live and the BBC would like to apologize for any offense caused."

The notorious tabloids castigated Henman more harshly, even as they were passing the torch of Great British Hope to Murray. "TIM WHO?" wondered the big, bold headline in The Daily Mirror, underneath which was this subhead: "Wonder kid Murray on the march, but Henman crashes out swearing and apologizing."

The Daily Mail headlined: "The day Henman Hill became Murray Mount," and so it went. They came both to bury Henman and to praise Murray. Even The Times ran a photo of Murray exulting at the end of his straight-sets upset of No. 14 seed Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic atop its front page, proclaiming: "Hail the new bearer of Britain's Wimbledon dreams." How quickly those dreams can turn into nightmares.

Barry Lorge, former Washington Post staff writer and sports editor/columnist of The San Diego Union, has covered tennis in more than 25 countries on five continents. He co-authored the section on tennis in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.