A day after Tim Henman bowed out of the US Open in the semi-finals, the next generation of British tennis provided some balm to the wound when Andrew Murray won the junior singles title at Flushing Meadows.
Murray, 17, who as a child survived the Dunblane massacre in Scotland, defeated Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine 6-4 6-2. Henman, meanwhile, could at least take comfort in the knowledge that he had lost only because his opponent was better and fresher. If, as now seems likely, his career ends without a grand-slam title to his name, he will leave the game with a bagful of regrets. But in the semi-final on Saturday against world number one Roger Federer, Henman, was a picture of resolve.
The match was over in less than two hours, but neither the clock nor the 6-3 6-4 6-4 scoreline give Henman quite the credit he deserves. His biggest problem was that he had played too much tennis en route to the last four; after three five-set marathons and two four-set matches, he was in no condition to handle the punishing groundstrokes and severe angles that the freakishly talented Federer threw at him.
Given the way Federer has played this year, Henman could have been given a bye to the semis and would have likely still come up short. But while the Briton should be feeling very pleased with himself after a second improbable major semi-final this year - he also reached the last four at the French Open - there is good reason to wonder just how much he can build on this success. He was 30 last Monday, and while he remains one of the fittest players around, age does discriminate, and particularly at the majors, with their 128-player draws and best-of-five set matches.
And this speaks only to the physical challenge. Nerves often become harder to tame the older an athlete gets. Henman showed great poise on Saturday, but it may well be that the nearly impossible odds he faced helped put his mind at ease. He has seldom handled pressure with such aplomb, and as the opportunities to achieve that elusive breakthrough victory diminish in number, the pressure can only get worse.
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