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Henman hints at missing link: 'Lendl had huge impact. What they achieved was fantastic'

LESS time and effort was expended at Wimbledon yesterday analysing Andy Murray's match with Grigor Dimitrov than speculating idly about what went on in the five minutes before it.

Pictures of his girlfriend Kim Sears walking tearfully away from the court; an off-colour performance with a poorly-executed tactical plan; a surprisingly swift end to the match between Sabine Lisicki and Simona Halep which immediately preceded it; his Bulgarian opponent claiming he could tell in the warm-up that the Scot wasn't right; a few choice words aimed at the players' box and some courtside photographers apparently overhearing Murray muttering something about "five minutes before the f**king match".

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All of the above ingredients were added to a stock, given a stir and brought to a perfect tabloid boil.

While the rumour mill went into overdrive - regardless of the lack of anything resembling a smoking gun - all those closest to the story denied that it was in fact a story. While Murray himself, composed enough to hold break point on the Dimitrov serve in the very first game, straight-batted such enquiries afterwards, and his mum Judy - who arrived only at the start of the second set - denied all knowledge, Tim Henman said an alternative explanation must be found for the perplexing nature of the defending champion's performance.

"There is a lot of speculation about what happened before the match, but it is rubbish," said Henman. "I've spoken to some of his team and there's nothing about five minutes before. There is no story there. That's unfortunate, because there would be much more fun if there was a reason. It makes it more mystifying, but it does happen from time to time.

"If he was told anything - well not anything, because there are things that are far more important than a tennis match - but when you put into the context of what he did last year, how he came through that last game in the final, his mental fortitude, how tough he is and how hard he works, five minutes doesn't mean anything.

"He would have practiced, eaten and warmed up. He would have been in the locker room and ready to go. The way that he went out to play, he had every opportunity."

As the Scot himself hinted afterwards, in truth it was loss of confidence caused by his inability to win any silverware since last year here, or beat a single top-10 player, which was the real reason behind this defeat. He drops to world No.10 when the rankings emerge on Monday but Henman sees no reason why he cannot play for another five years or more and win more major titles.

"It is a big disappointment, but you have to reflect on the way he played in Paris, where I thought he played fantastically well," said Henman. "I've also got no doubt he played better here in the first four matches than he did last year. At 27, knowing how motivated and competitive he is, I still think he'll win more slams.

"You've seen what he has done with his game, how hard he works. That's not in question. It's about getting that process right. Working on the different elements. For me, that means improving his second serve, looking to be aggressive from the baseline. When he does that he'll win big tournaments again."

The perfect example for the Scot to follow is Roger Federer, a man who 12 months ago was in disarray after losing to Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round at Wimbledon. Now, at 32, he seems primed for another major title win. Andre Agassi made the US Open final at 34.

"Sure, the competition is tougher now, but when you get these guys at this level of the sport, when someone says they can't do it, they are pretty consistent at proving people wrong," said Henman.

Murray had the first of many scheduled chats with coach Amelie Mauresmo yesterday. While he has enjoyed their few weeks working together, the future of that partnership remains uncertain at best. Henman feels the former world No.1 deserves time to prove herself, but nonetheless reckons something is missing without the presence of Ivan Lendl in his corner.

"I don't want to make a comparison between Ivan and Amelie, because I think Amelie should be given her opportunity," said Henman. "But Lendl had a huge impact. What they achieved together was fantastic.

"It wasn't necessarily about teaching him new shots but really focusing on the game style and having someone in his corner with the knowledge to say 'you're doing the right thing'. The fact he's not there any more, I think is a loss."

If anything untoward had gone on in that fabled five minutes, Judy was certainly keeping mum. "Not that I'm aware of," she said in a radio interview. "I missed the whole first set, as I was watching Jamie playing mixed doubles on Court 18, so I've got no idea about that. But I'm sure he'll be back. As they say, form is temporary, class is permanent."

Tim Henman commentates for the BBC at Wimbledon

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