Tim Henman discusses why he is excited about the growing rivalry in men's tennis, the return of Emma Raducanu this season plus 'wins around the corner' for out-of-form Andy Murray; watch the launch of the Sky Sports Tennis Channel from Sunday
Sunday 11 February 2024 08:18, UK
As Sky Sports launches its first dedicated tennis channel, pundit and analyst Tim Henman says the rivalry between Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz is one that can have audiences on the edge of their seats this season.
Henman, who alongside Laura Robson and presenter Gigi Salmon will guide viewers through the main storylines on this year's women's and men's tours, says he cannot wait to see how the duel between Australian Open champion Sinner, 22, and Alcaraz, 20, develops.
"If Alcaraz and Sinner stay injury free they're going to play each other a lot in the biggest and best tournaments. To have these new rivals at such a young age with so many opportunities, that's hugely exciting," said former British No 1 Henman.
"Sinner's performance in Australia was absolutely fantastic and, for me, that was a continuation.
"There's no doubt he was the most improved player of 2023 and then to be able to take that form into 2024 and win his first Grand Slam title was an incredible achievement and for Sinner it will be the first of many, he's that good."
While excited by the growing rivalry, Henman believes Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka will still take some beating this year.
Djokovic made history last year by winning his fourth US Open and record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title with a straight-sets victory against Daniil Medvedev.
"Djokovic is still the player to beat," Henman said. "He won three of the four majors last year. By his own admission he didn't play well in the semi-finals of Melbourne but he's still the man to beat."
Sabalenka, meanwhile, claimed back-to-back Australian Open titles after she defeated first-time Grand Slam finalist Qinwen Zheng in Melbourne last month.
"Sabalenka might not be the No 1 in the world but she is the player to beat," he added.
"Iga Swiatek has had amazing results and she deserves to be No 1 in the world but with the momentum and confidence Sabalenka has, it's going to take an amazing performance to beat her."
Sabalenka stormed past Coco Gauff in straight sets to claim her place in the Melbourne final as she gained revenge after the American was victorious in last year's US Open final.
The world No 2 from Belarus did not drop a set in seven matches and became the first player since compatriot Victoria Azarenka 11 years ago to claim back-to-back titles in Australia.
"That win for Sabalenka against Gauff was huge because she lost to her in the US Open final when she'd been up a set and a break, and Gauff was able to turn it around," Henman said.
"When you reflect a couple of years ago the WTA Tour was so unpredictable, you could probably give 15 or 20 female players that could win a Grand Slam.
"Now I look at it and think the top four have kind of separated themselves, they’re all major winners playing in the biggest and best events.
"Building those rivalries up is so important and that's what we’re going to have the opportunity to see."
The return of former US Open champion and Briton Emma Raducanu has been another exciting storyline for Henman so far this year - and one he will be watching closely.
"It's been massively exciting to see Raducanu back on the court in 2024. She's only played two tournaments but I've been very impressed with her," Henman said.
"If she can play a lot of matches and tournaments without getting those injuries that break her momentum then, irrespective of the result, that would be a huge positive for her because her tennis game is so good. The results will come."
Meanwhile, Henman believes there are wins around the corner for Andy Murray who is without a victory on the ATP Tour since last October.
Earlier this week, he suffered a straight-sets loss to Tomas Machac in the first round of the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.
"There's no doubt Murray doesn't want to be losing in the first round which he has done on three occasions this year, but he still has the belief and the confidence that the wins will come," Henman said.
"His commitment and hunger and desire on the back of what he's achieved is incredible. I think you also need to take into account when he was going through the hip surgery he was away [from the game].
"His efforts physically are amazing to be out there competing with a metal hip. If he starts playing better there will be plenty more wins to come."
Sky Sports has confirmed a new home for tennis in the UK and Ireland, with Sky Sports Tennis to launch on Sky and NOW from February 11, making tennis content available every day for fans.
Sky Sports will broadcast more live tennis than anywhere else, bringing over 4,000 matches from more than 80 tournaments a year on the ATP and WTA Tours, as well as full US Open coverage.
Sky Sports Tennis will be available to Sky Sports customers with Complete, Action and Arena packages, with viewers able to access multiple live court streams at the same time via the Sky Sports mobile app, the Sky TV app or red button and on NOW Bonus Streams, giving access to more live matches.
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