Only Hewitt remains in Federer's path

On major roll, No. 1 expels Henman to reach 1st final

U.s. Open

September 12, 2004|By Diane Pucin | Diane Pucin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

NEW YORK - Tim Henman's classic game of serve-and-volley tennis was made invisible yesterday at the U.S. Open.

Henman, the 30-year-old Briton with the tidy white clothes and tidy game, was deflated by Roger Federer's precision from both the backhand and forehand sides and punctured by his sharply angled volleys.

In only 1 hour, 46 minutes, Federer, the world's top-ranked player, moved into his first U.S. Open final with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over fifth-seeded Henman.

In today's final, Federer will face Lleyton Hewitt, the Australian pest who didn't back down from the booming serves of Joachim Johansson and will not back down from Federer's calm pursuit of perfection.

Hewitt, who hasn't lost a set here, incapacitated the power of Johansson by sheer perseverance and beat the 28th-seeded Swede, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, in 1:59.

It was an afternoon of tennis missing any tension or competitive balance. The only angst was the family passion play among the Hewitts. Lleyton's sister, Jaslyn, is Johansson's girlfriend and had been running from the question of who to root for since the 22-year-old Johansson shocked Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals Thursday night.

Hewitt, 23, didn't ease up for a minute on Johansson, who spends much of the offseason at the Hewitt home in Adelaide, playing on Hewitt's court.

"I've had to play against other Aussie guys in the past," Hewitt said. "You've just got to put your competitive hat on and ... not worry about who's on the other side of the net."

Johansson, who is 6 feet 6 and still learning what to do after pounding in 130-mph serves, was wrong-footed and left lunging fruitlessly for the ball by Hewitt's baseline consistency.

"It feels like he has got a lot of confidence because he's won every match he's played the last three, four weeks," Johansson said of Hewitt. "He's playing more aggressive and that makes him a dangerous player."

But the most dangerous player remains Federer. The 23-year-old from Switzerland is trying to become the first man since Mats Wilander 16 years ago to win three of the season's four major titles. When he won the Australian Open in January, Federer beat Hewitt in the fourth round. At Wimbledon in July, Federer beat Hewitt in the quarterfinals.

"Roger is playing absolutely phenomenal tennis," Henman said.

If Federer had given Henman an opening, the crowd was ready to support the Brit. In the fourth game of the second set, it seemed Henman had a chance for a breakthrough moment. After Federer had jumped ahead, 40-0, on his serve, Henman won three consecutive points. After Federer reached game point with a breathtaking lob that slipped off the baseline as Henman ran after it, the game reached deuce again.

But it was false bravado and Federer went on to hold serve with an ace in the corner. "He's setting the standards for everyone," Henman said. "Lots of people are just trying to catch up."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Open today

Men's final

Lleyton Hewitt (4) vs. Roger Federer (1)

TV: Chs. 13, 9, 4 p.m.

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