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‘Tiger’ Tim Henman retired in 2007 after a professional career during which he almost single-handedly shouldered a whole nation's tennis hopes for more than a decade. And while the Holy Grail of a Wimbledon title eluded him, winning 11 career ATP singles titles from 23 finals and four ATP doubles titles along with a career-high world ranking of four counts as a brilliant international career by any standards. Since retiring he has been spending plenty of time on the golf course (his handicap is down to scratch), and, as PUSH found out at the Slazenger Challenge, the 35-year-old is no mean wielder of a hockey racquet.

It looks like you have played a bit of hockey, is that right?

Yes. My dad has always played a lot of hockey basically every Saturday for the whole time I've known him. I always used to go and watch on Saturday afternoons when he was playing for the Oxford Hawks – so I probably hit my first hockey ball when I was about four. I've still got my first stick and I played a lot at school until I was about 11 or 12.

So do you still pick up that stick occasionally?

Now I play once a year on Boxing Day – Dad always has a game on Boxing Day! It is usually about a 9.30am start though – which can be interesting.

You competed in three Olympic games and won silver in Atlanta (1996). Are you excited about London 2012?

I'm actually involved with the athletes advisory panel for 2012 which has been fantastic. This is basically a group of athletes, including hockey's Simon Mason, and it's really a matter of considering anything an athlete is going to come in contact with in 2012. Whether it's facilities, transportation, the village, food, beds and so on, we want to use our combined experience of the last four or five Olympics to pick out the bits that worked really well to give the athletes the best possible experience. The aim is to make the 2012 Olympics the best games ever. Jonathan Edwards [triple jump] is the chair of our group and we have Karen Pickering [swimming], Tanni Grey- Thompson [Paralympian], myself and

Simon so there is a good group there and it has been fascinating to see how plans for 2012 are unfolding.

What do you think of the Olympic site?

We have visits fairly regularly and it is amazing how quickly the work is going. Pretty soon there will be accommodation finished for us to take a look at – and the village is so important to the athlete's first-hand experience – so it is all very exciting.

When you retired it seems you stopped playing tennis completely. For someone who loved the game so much, was that a shock to the system?

From the age of five to the age of 33, tennis was the dominating factor in my life. For 27 of those years it was my hobby, but I think in the last six months it was becoming my job and I never wanted that to be the case. So I really feel like I stopped at the right time. Once I did stop playing professionally I just wanted to have a complete break. It’s been fantastic not to have to worry about practice, training and travel, and going away to tournaments and missing my family. Just to have that continuity of being at home has been incredible. I’ve spent a lot of time with my family and on the golf course, but I’ve also been able to do things like go skiing – I was never able to ski while I was competing. Just having the freedom to plan holidays and plan time away and not have to worry about my fitness and my schedule – everything that goes with being a professional tennis player – has been great. I could not have enjoyed my retirement more.

The Slazenger Challenge

To launch their new product ranges, Slazenger invited sponsored players from cricket, hockey and tennis along to Wimbledon Park in February for a multi- sport challenge. England hockey internationals Ali Wilson and Ben Hawes joined Tim Henman and cricketers Liam Plunkett, Paul Collingwood and Tim Bresnan in trying out each other’s sports. Henman was the all-round winner.

“It’s always been my dream to win something at Wimbledon. Now I have. Finally!” joked the tennis star.

But we've heard rumours of a Masters comeback – true or false?

True! I am going to be playing the Aegon Masters at the Royal Albert Hall in December. I feel ready to add playing tennis to my schedule again because I feel like I’ve had a good break and my appetite for being on the court and hitting balls is returning. To have the Aegon Masters on the horizon is a good goal to work towards. It’s a good reason to get off my backside, get in the gym and get fitter! I saw a lot of the final between Pat Rafter and Stefan Edberg last year and it was impressive. They’re both in great shape and they both look a lot younger than their years so I’m going to have to work hard to make sure my game matches up well. First and foremost I want to play well because tennis has always been a huge passion of mine and to play well in London in front of a British crowd is another incentive. But at the end of the day, these tournaments are to be enjoyed, and if you don’t come away with the right result then it’s not the end of the world. To know that I’ll be able to play with less pressure will make it extra enjoyable.

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