Unloveable? Nah. Especially after reading this article:
'To be honest, I struggled with growing up in public; it’s very hard being a teenager and having this feeling that everyone is watching you. I hadn’t achieved anything in tennis and wasn’t particularly good until Wimbledon 2005. I won a couple of matches, and from no one having any interest in me, all of a sudden there was a lot of pressure and a tremendous amount of expectation. I was 18 years old and had no experience of how to deal with it. To begin with, it all seemed great fun, I enjoyed it, went along with it, and was open with people – then some things started to backfire.’
One such moment came in New Zealand: in explaining a defeat, he said that he had served like a girl. It was supposed to have been a self- deprecating comment, but blew up into a political argument. A couple of similar experiences have made him much more circumspect.
'It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t been through a similar experience how it feels, but essentially my whole life, on and off the court, was like being in a goldfish bowl,’ he says. 'Suddenly people were scrutinising every word I said, and I hadn’t been prepared for that, so I just went into my shell and tried to cut myself off as much as possible. It made things easier.'
He pauses and smiles; there’s a little hurt in his face. One senses that he felt let down: people asked his opinion, he was encouraged to lighten up, but when he did he paid a heavy price for it. Henman once told me that although he always gave anodyne answers to questions, he had many strong opinions beneath the surface. The reason he didn’t voice them was that he didn’t want to turn on Radio Five Live on his way home and hear an argument raging about something he had said, or have to explain himself at heated press conferences – better just play with a straight bat.
Nevertheless, he lives a modest life, frequently travels by Tube; has little interest in clothes, and his principal interests outside sport, like so many of his age, are music and computer games. 'I am very proud of the fact that even though my circumstances have changed, my lifestyle away from tennis is still very much the same,’ he says. 'I have the same group of friends, I don’t drink, I don’t go out to nightclubs. I live a very simple life. I like to go to the cinema or go for a meal with my girlfriend, or stay and watch a DVD.Here's my favorite part:
'Someone asked me recently, which would I prefer; to be number 25 in the world and happy or number one and unhappy because of the pressure? To me that’s a no-brainer. To me it’s all about winning. When I am serving to win a match, I get nervous. Not because I’m thinking about the cheque – it’s all about wanting to beat Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer. It’s not about the money.’