Tennis: Henman powers through to final

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TIM HENMAN subdued the Russian prodigy Marat Safin to secure his place in today's final of the indoor tournament in Rotterdam with a 7-6, 7-6 victory.

The British No 1 will play Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who earlier demonstrated his all-court brilliance to outclass Greg Rusedski 6-4, 6-2 in the other semi-final.

Henman and Safin playued a tight first set in which serve dominated before the Russian surrendered in the tie-break. For all the power and accuracy that he showed from the baseline, Safin displayed little poise in the decider and after surviving a breakpoint to lead 6-5, his game fell apart. He double-faulted when serving for the set point before Henman took it 9-7.

Henman had three break points at 1-1 in the second set, but a second tie-break started to look inevitable after a run of 20 successive points with serve. Safin appeared to crack in the decider and Henman swept through it 7-0.

Earlier in the day, Rusedski opened up with a three-ace love service game on the super-quick carpet surface of the Ahoy Arena, but whenever the flow of aces momentarily abated, Kafelnikov unleashed a dazzling array of strokes that forced Rusedski into errors and created chances to break. Eventually, the Russian broke through in the ninth game and served out to love for the first set.

Rusedski, inferior to Kafelnikov in all areas apart from service, held for 1-0 in the second but then capitulated, losing five successive games. The British No 2 began thumping forehands in obvious frustration and made one or two winners before the inevitable defeat arrived in just 57 minutes.

Afterwards Rusedski admitted that his challenge had suffered after he had lost five successive points in the ninth game effectively to surrender the first set, but he tried to remain upbeat about his general form. "I played extremely well in the first seven, eight games," he said. Against the world No 2 that simply is not enough.