The man who could end Tim Henman's grand slam career
, in the first round of the US Open, is extremely fond of him. Indeed, Russian Dmitry Tursunov has gently teased Henman about being an upper-class English gent, suggesting that he travels around the tennis circuit with a butler, and likes to take a break during his matches for tea and strawberries and cream.
"Tim always has afternoon tea," the wonderfully irreverent Tursunov has said. "Even during his matches he'll have tea and strawberries with cream.
"In fact, he's one of the very few players who is given two 'injury' time-outs plus a 'tea' time-out in case the match time interferes with his 'tea time'. And when he eats in a restaurant he needs to have a cloth napkin, a waiter and a full set of silverware. God forbid if the utensils are plastic."
Not that Henman minds the jokes from Tursunov. It is what players have come to expect from Tursunov, who has also been known to hide Roger Federer's rackets before the world No 1 goes out to play, and to throw apples at his colleagues in the locker-room. On the ATP's website, he lists his interests as "electronic and dance music, sports cars, knitting and collecting walnut shells". And, with his blond hair and his square jaw, he could easily pass for a Bond villain. There is also a resemblance to American comedian Will Ferrell. He smacks the ball with the power you might expect from a Bond villain. And he behaves a bit like Ferrell.
Tursunov, the No 27 seed, is no tennis dullard. "I have a very British sense of humour, and so I like Tim's sense of humour," the Californian-based Muscovite said. "He's a normal guy and likes a laugh and doesn't take it personally. I think having a sense of humour is a very important trait for any person, and he has that. Others players lack that - they take it a little personally.
"Some of the time during our matches, if Tim has had an easy shot, he has gone for me, hitting the ball hard, and he has looked at me and smiled a bit. So he gets me back in different ways. Maybe he'll do something here to me."
Tursunov had rounded off a practice session here by trying to thrash balls from the nearby practice courts up and into Arthur Ashe Stadium. But, being serious for a moment, he suggested that Henman quitting will have the same emotional impact on the players as the departure at last year's US Open of Andre Agassi.
"He's popular with the players, he's a great guy, and besides that he's actually been an incredible tennis player," Tursunov said. "Unfortunately, he didn't win a slam, but it's not like he lost to really bad players.
"I think the players are going to miss him just as much as we missed Andre. Andre had more success with the crowds, but we are definitely going to miss seeing him at the tournaments."
"He's very competitive on the court, but he'll never cross the line of not being a gentleman on the court. With the exception of maybe Federer, there are very few people who are like that.
"I'd love it if there were more players like him coming up in the younger generation, but it seems like being more cocky on the tennis court is more acceptable than it was. I don't really know anyone who doesn't like Tim. There's definitely going to be a void after he has gone."
One of Henman's practice sessions before playing Tursunov was with Federer. "It just kind of came out that Tim was retiring," Federer said. "Tim asked me if I wanted to practise one last time. I said to him, 'What are you talking about? That's it?' So, yeah, it was a different kind of a practice, I thought. Almost a bit sad to a point."
Henman has lost five of the six matches he has played against Tursunov, including at Wimbledon in 2005, and last year's Australian and French Opens.
"Is that because of me that Tim is retiring?" Tursunov asked. "He's probably thinking, 'Every time I show up for a grand slam, I play this clown'."
Dmitry Tursunov profile
• Dmitry Tursunov is the son of a Russian nuclear research engineer. "The moment people hear nuclear research, they imagine rockets with 'USSR' written on them," he said.
"My father was an engineer at the Institute of Nuclear Research. I don't know exactly what he did. I'm sure he didn't play with plutonium. It was something to do with defence, but he was not pressing a red button. People like to think he has a heavy accent and would say, 'Capitalism must die'."
• When Tursunov beat Tim Henman in the second round of the 2005 Wimbledon Championships, the Russian had to borrow a shirt before going on court as his clothes had been stolen from the locker-room.
• Tursunov, who moved to the United States when he was 12, is the resident blogger on the ATP's website, where he gives his thoughts on life behind the scenes.