With his win over Mark Philippoussis on Monday, 29-year-old Tim Henman sent the English rite of masochism known as Hen-mania into overdrive. He also threatened to end one of tennis's most curious streaks. No Briton has won a Wimbledon singles title since Virginia Wade in 1977 just as no true French player has won at Roland-Garros since Yannick Noah in 1983 (the Canadian-born Mary Pierce, who won in 2000, was raised in the U.S.) and no Aussie has won in Melbourne since Chris O'Neil in 1978.
Meanwhile, Americans have won those Slams and owned the U.S. Open. Why? The huge U.S. population is an advantage, but the consensus is that habitual American success, coupled with the sport's low profile in the U.S., erases all pressure but the personal. A U.S. tennis player ranked No. 6, as Henman is, could never be a vessel of national pride. As Paul Annacone, Henman's coach, puts it, "People in the U.S. don't give a s—about you if you're ranked sixth in the world. You go big or you go home."