Federer gives Henman the straight answer

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Tim Henman produced a gritty, determined performance against Roger Federer but he could do nothing to prevent the world No 1 from breezing through to his first US Open final with a 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory at Flushing Meadows and continuing his attempt to become the first man to win three Grand Slam titles in a year since Mats Wilander in 1988.

The British No 1 played some aggressive, effective tennis, but the unflappable Swiss broke in the sixth game. Remarkably, Henman broke straight back, but Federer stepped up the power to break again for 5-3. From that point, it seemed that it would be Federer who would be back on court today for the final against Lleyton Hewitt. The Australian had earlier beaten the surprise semi-finalist, Joachim Johansson of Sweden, also in straight sets. Henman was struggling to make any impact with his service, and in the first set he managed to put in only 35 per cent of his first serves as Federer continued to put him under pressure.

The gap between Henman, the world No 6, and the best player in the world began to look immense despite the Briton's best efforts in his second Grand Slam semi-final of the year. Despite stepping up his service percentages, Henman found the ball coming back at him with interest. The pressure built and when Henman double-faulted to drop serve in the seventh game of the second set, it looked only a matter of time before this latest attempt to reach a Grand Slam final would go the same way as his sterling effort in France this summer, which was ended by Guillermo Coria, the Argentinian clay-court specialist. When all seemed lost, at 5-1 down in the final set, Henman roused himself to break Federer, but that only delayed the end.