Enqvist breezes past Henman to finals

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The Independent Online

Second-seeded Thomas Enqvist of Sweden trounced fourth-seeded Tim Henman of Britain in straight sets today to advance to the final of the Swiss Indoors in Basel, Switzerland where he will meet hometown hero Roger Federer.

Second-seeded Thomas Enqvist of Sweden trounced fourth-seeded Tim Henman of Britain in straight sets today to advance to the final of the Swiss Indoors in Basel, Switzerland where he will meet hometown hero Roger Federer.

In a riveting clash between two 19-year-olds, a gritty Federer saved a match point before toppling third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt of Australia 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (6) in a two and half hour nail-biter.

The 26-year-old Enqvist, making his first appearance since injuring his foot in Vienna two weeks ago, collected 14 break points on way to expunging the Briton 6-1, 6-3, ending Henman's eight match winning streak.

"In the final I have to beware. Roger can be a tough player," said Enqvist, whose only title this year came at the Tennis Masters Series event in Cincinnati in August. "He knows how to win against top players. We've seen it before."

Federer, still looking for his first career title, clinched his place in the final with an ace, sending the home crowd into a frenzy as it raised the roof with cheers worthy of a Grand Slam final and threw cushions onto the court in unadulterated joy.

"It was the most unbelievable match of my career," said Federer. "To play at home and turn it around after losing to him the last three times is incredible.

"And to close out my last three wins with aces is icing on the cake."

Enqvist and Federer have only met once before in the second round in Adelaide last January, with the Swede winning 7-6 (5), 6-4. But that doesn't worry the Swiss.

"All the guys I won against this week I had lost to," said Federer. "I seem to be coming back from a losing streak. I hope it continues tomorrow."

In the early semifinal, Henman struggled with his service game throughout the match, and only managed to hold serve for the first time when he was down 2-0 in the second set.

The two traded breaks early in the opening set to remain 2-1 but Enqvist immediately jumped ahead again, breaking the Briton with a spectacular return passing shot to go 3-1. Enqvist collected another three break points at 4-1 to take Henman's serve again and put the set out of reach.

In the second, the Swede again collected three break points to steal Henman's opening serve. Though the Briton managed to hold on to his next three serves, it wasn't enough to slow the Swede, who broke again at 5-3 to wrap up the set and match with a cross court backhand shot.

"It was easier than I expected. But it was still tough to stay concentrated all match," said Enqvist. "I had to take a few minutes to calm down, especially when you are playing such a good player as Tim who could turn the match around even down so much."

While Henman has traditionally done well in Basel, winning the title in 1998 and reaching the final last year, it marks the first time in eight appearances that Enqvist has advanced beyond the second round.

Saturday's victory boosted the Swede's chances of qualifying for the Tennis Master's Cup, an elite eight-player event in Portugal in November. With four weeks to go, Enqvist is in ninth place, Henman in 10th.

In the other semifinal, Hewitt started in dominant fashion, quickly breaking to take a 3-1 lead, but then suddenly appeared to lose all concentration, allowing Federer to win the next five games and the opening set.

With the Australian finding his rhythm again in the second set, both players clung tenaciously to their serves, with Federer saving five break points to stay at 3-3 and Hewitt fighting off three to remain on serve at 4-3.

Displaying his usual intensity, Hewitt finally produced the first break of the set at 4-3, then served for the match. But the cheeky Swiss immediately broke back, narrowing the gap to 5-4 then holding to even the score.

However, after a love service game, with the crowd lending him as much support as their own player, Hewitt delivered the fatal break, sending the match into a third set.

Both refusing to give an inch, the two traded sets at 2-2, with Federer saving a match point at 4-5, driving a brilliant shot down the line despite cracking the ball with the frame of his racket.

Not about to squander his chance when it came up in the tiebreak, the Swiss delivered a scorching ace to post his first victory in four encounters with the Australian.

"I felt I only played my best tennis in patches, that's what was most disappointing," said Hewitt, who also criticized the officiating. "But it was a fantastic match for the crowd, so close and exciting."