Federer outclasses Henman with matchless firepower

Tim Henman does not lose to nobodies in Grand Slam singles semi-finals. Pete Sampras, twice, Goran Ivanisevic and Lleyton Hewitt defeated the British No 1 at Wimbledon, Guillermo Coria overcame him at the French Open, and Roger Federer outclassed him at the US Open here on Saturday.

Though disappointed to lose to Federer, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, Henman could only marvel at his opponent's game. "If you take [Andy] Roddick's serve and [Andre] Agassi's returns and my volleys and Hewitt's speed and tenacity, then you've probably got a good chance against Federer," the 30-year-old said.

In a match of breathtaking shot-making, Henman managed to break the Swiss maestro twice - striking back after losing his serve for 2-4 in the opening set, and preventing Federer from converting his first match point at 2-5 in the third set - but his own serve lacked the consistency to keep him out of trouble.

Henman went into the match with a 6-2 winning record against Federer, but it was not long before we saw how much the world No 1 had grown into his role as the sport's finest player. "I beat him in Rotterdam this year," Henman recalled, "but I guess in the last 18 months, since he won Wimbledon for the first time, he's been setting the standards for everyone."

Although Henman, the fifth seed, may have difficulty pursuing Federer and the other young men, such as Hewitt, who has beaten him eight times out of eight, and Roddick, he will finish the season with a lot of credit.

Subtract his quarter-final loss to Mario Ancic at Wimbledon and his defeat by Jiri Novak in the first round at the Olympics (Federer also lost his opening match in Athens), and there is plenty on the plus side to sustain Henman's enthusiasm and his will to improve.

His unexpected progress on clay to the last four at the French Open in June, and his displays here in New York after arriving with a back injury, have been a bonus. Moving towards the European indoor season he is already close to guaranteeing a place in the eight-strong draw for the Masters Cup in November.

A week next Friday, Henman is due to take responsibility for his country again as Britain battle on the slow clay of Austria for a place in the World Group of the Davis Cup. Meantime, he will stay off the golf course and take good care of his lower back.

There was a saying in the Soviet Union: "If you see a queue, join it." That now applies to Russian women's tennis. The 19-year-old Svetlana Kuznetsova became the third in a row to win a Grand Slam singles title on Saturday night, following the success of Anastasia Myskina at the French Open and Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon.

Kuznetsova defeated her compatriot, Elena Dementieva, 6-3, 7-5, in the final, adding to Dementieva's disappointment at losing to Myskina in the Paris final. This time, however, Dementieva made a fight of it, in spite of an injured left thigh. Dementieva's underpowered round-arm serve held up better than usual, but she had difficulty coping with Kuznetsova's impressive forehand, which generated 23 winners.

The ninth-seeded Kuznetsova was groomed in Barcelona, at the Emilio Sanchez-Sergio Casal Tennis Academy, and honed her technique and gained confidence by playing doubles with two former world No 1s, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Martina Navratilova. Kuznetsova won this year's pre-Wimbledon Hastings Direct Championships at Eastbourne.

It has been revealed that three high-ranking umpires, including Fergus Murphy, of Ireland, were dismissed early from the US Open because they allegedly altered their credentials at the Olympics in Athens to allow them increased access to the Games. Two officials, Matthew McAleer and Diana Larkin, were caught by security trying to use false credentials.

During the qualifying tournament at the US Open, the International Tennis Federation discovered three others involved in the Athens incident, Murphy, Lynn Welch and Christina Olausson, were at Flushing Meadows. They were allowed to officiate at matches for more than a week while an investigation took place.

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