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TIM Henman's decision to quit Davis Cup tennis not only leaves a gaping hole in the British team but could signal the start of a bleak period for the sport in this country.

It is hard to argue with Tiger Tim's decision to stop prowling the cup stage if the British number one ever wants to land that elusive Gram Slam title.

Henman will be 31 in September and, after racking up a half century of matches for this country, needs to concentrate on Slams at the sharp end of his career if he is ever to improve on six semi-finals.

But the retirement of the team's talisman will hasten a transitional period as the next generation scramble to gain the necessary experience to fill the void.

In the meantime Britain's next opponents, Israel in March, must have cracked open the bubbly and already be licking their lips at the prospect of tucking into also-rans such as Lee Childs, Mark Hilton, Alex Bogdanovic and Arvind Parmar.

Parmar and Bogdanovic are both ranked in the world's top 200 but the chasm in class is vast.

Yugoslavian-born Bogdanovic was once warned by the LTA for a lack of drive and Parmar appears on our screens once a year at Wimbledon for an annual trouncing.

Of those lining up to replace Henman only 17year-old Andrew Murray looks a long-term bet.

Already marked down as Britain's next golden boy, the Junior US Open champion from Scotland will have to be thrust into action ahead of his time.

Britain last won the Davis Cup in 1936 - a repeat now seems further away than ever!

So if we can't celebrate cup success can we at least enjoy Henman finally lifting a Grand Slam title in Australia? Don't hold your breath!

The British ace has never made it past the fourth round in eight attempts Down Under, and is likely to face second seed Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals.

If he beats him then there's just the small matter of Roger Federer... prepare for more misery!
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 16, 2005
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