TIM Henman is bracing himself for an appearance at the Brodies Champions of Tennis event at Gleneagles next weekend, a level of tennis where it is hardly uncommon for the sport’s senior citizens to prioritise simply getting through matches unscathed without aggravating the aches and pains of a lifetime on the tennis tour. 

Few would have guessed, however, that the same might equally apply in the main event, where his friend Andy Murray – a man 12 years his junior – will see how he feels this morning before making a final decision on whether he is finally ready to return to competitive action at this week’s Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club. 

There was that anomalous and light-hearted charity exhibition match with Roger Federer at the SSE Hydro last November – with Henman in attendance – but Murray hasn’t played a competitive match since limping out of Wimbledon against Sam Querrey of the USA last July. 

The decision which was expected on his readiness for Queen’s Club today, immediately following a few practice sets with Cam Norrie, never came. Instead, it will arrive just before today’s draw for the competition is made at noon today. 

Murray is the most successful player in the history of the Queen’s Club tournament, but according to Henman at least, the last thing anyone should worry too much about as the Scot mulls over his options this morning are his prospects of a long run, or even a sixth title.  While Rafa Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro have withdrawn, and Roger Federer as usual will play Halle instead, Murray would return to a stacked draw in West London this fortnight featuring the likes of Novak Djokovic, Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov. But Henman says even a pain-free 6-1, 6-1 first-round loss would represent something to celebrate.

“Everyone keeps focusing on the outcome but the outcome would be irrelevant,” Henman told Herald Sport. “If he goes out there, plays whoever and loses 6-1, 6-1, and his hip is fine, then that is a great result.  “It simply doesn’t matter,” he added. “With what he has been through, just to be out there on court playing pain free would be amazing. We all know he is a brilliant tennis player, he will never lose that. The physical challenge is the biggest thing.” 

As it happens the two men met at the All England Club only last week. The topic of conversation was wide ranging, although Henman laughs off the suggestion that the World Cup and all that “anyone but England” stuff earned a mention.  In the short term, the imperative remains primarily to make sure he is back at SW19 in a fortnight’s time, playing pain free at as close to 100% as possible. While Henman feels that the Scot would ideally try that troublesome hip joint out in a three-set match before subjecting it potentially to the rigours of five, there are other ways to get match practice for SW19 even if he decides to skip Queen’s. 

“If he were to be able to play Wimbledon it would be absolutely fantastic,” said Henman. “And the result there would be completely irrelevant too.  “It would be hard if Wimbledon were his first event – to have to play best of five sets,” he added. “Coming off from pretty much 12 months out of the game, you would probably prefer to start with a three-set match, but we just have to wait and see. “I saw him at the All England Club last week and it is just good to see him back out on the court. He was definitely moving well, there was definitely progress there, but he has still got a long way to go. 

“It is a challenge and he is working his way through it. But he has been having some good grass court time, and hopefully it is going to continue going in the right direction. I am always in touch with him, I have known him for a long, long time now. It is not always tennis that we talk about. “This time of year, playing at home, he will be desperately keen to be out there. But he is experienced enough, I am sure he will make the right decision, whatever that will be. Everyone would love to see him back out there and I am sure he would love to be back out there more than anything. 

“I do hope he gets that chance. But of course there should be no pressure, and the results would be completely irrelevant. If he can just get back on court, it would be great simply to see him compete again. 

“He has to be 100% – or as close as you can get to 100%. The last match he played he was World No.1 and it was in the quarter finals of Wimbledon. That emphasises the severity of the injury. He did so much rehab last year trying to avoid the surgery, then had the surgery this year so it has been a real struggle for him. As we have seen with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, you have to be sure that you don’t rush it and do yourself any further damage. He has  obviously taken that on board.”

If it is too early to say whether Murray, whose ranking has dropped from No.1 to No.157 in a year, will be able to make a full recovery, at least some other contenders are stepping up in his absence.  Kyle Edmund, the World No.18, and Norrie, the World No.79 whose dad David hails from Scotland, will carry the British challenge even if Andy doesn’t make it. Jamie will play doubles, with Gordon Reid participating in a wheelchair exhibition event.

Three times a beaten finalist, Queen’s Club is one tournament Henman would love to have got his hands on. “In a funny sort of way, it was more my home tournament than Wimbledon,” he said. “When I lived in Barnes, Queen’s Club was where I was based. It has a great feel to it, and is the first real indication of how things are going to go at Wimbledon. It is one I really wish I had been able to win.” 

Part of an LTA performance advisory panel, Henman notes the decision to award one of two national academies to the University of Stirling and feels these are exciting times for the sport as it endeavours to deliver a  genuine Murray legacy.  “Kyle Edmund and Cam Norrie are certainly producing some really decent results,” he said.

“The strength and depth has always been the trouble so we need more and more players coming through, but there’s a group of teenagers, Aidan McHugh, George Loffhagen, Jack Draper and Anton Matusevich, who are looking good. That is what you want – four or five in each age group, then they can spur each other on.

“It goes without saying what the Murrays have done in Scotland for  British tennis is phenomenal,” he added. “I wasn’t part of that decision process for the academies but it is certainly a great thing for Stirling and British tennis can continue to benefit. I am on the performance advisory group with Jamie Delgado and Sam Smith. When that group meets, we will get a better feel for everything that is going on.”

But first things first, and that is the Brodies event, where he will battle with Thomas Muster, Xavier Malisse, Mark Philippoussis and Scotland’s national coach Colin Fleming.  “There is a competitive element to the games but we also want to have fun and give the spectators something worth watching,” he said. “I usually look to squeeze in a round or two of golf but I’m not sure the schedule permits it this time.”