Henman wilts under Federer's fire

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The Independent Online

Tim Henman found Roger Federer too hot to handle here last night as the world No 1 powered through to the semi-finals of the Nasdaq-100 Open.

Tim Henman found Roger Federer too hot to handle here last night as the world No 1 powered through to the semi-finals of the Nasdaq-100 Open. The British No 1 fought valiantly for a set and a half in the Miami heat, but then Federer moved up a gear to win convincingly 6-4, 6-2.

There was little between the two players in the first set but Henman was punished for one poor service game with the score at 2-2 and Federer broke. Henman battled back to force a break point in the eighth game but Federer responded to hold serve in emphatic style and went on to take the set comfortably.

Henman started the second set positively but again it was Federer who was the first to break. After four routine service games, Federer forced three break points in the fifth. Henman clawed the first two back but Federer was not to be denied and took the third of them to take complete control of the match.

The momentum was now all with Federer and as Henman started to waver, the Swiss broke for a second time in the seventh game. He then held his serve to wrap up a convincing straight-sets victory.

Henman had gone into the match with confidence high after sweeping past Czech Radek Stepanek in the previous round and boasting a winning record against Federer. But he has now lost his last three matches against the brilliant Swiss, who faces Taylor Dent or Andre Agassi in the last four.

"I had a bad record against Tim, but now I look at the draw and I'm really not scared of anybody," Federer said. "I'd love to play Agassi. He's one of the last legends in tennis and you want to be able to play him as much as you can."

David Ferrer, of Spain, needed just 65 minutes to crush the 26th seed Dominik Hrbaty, of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-3 to claim a berth in the semi-finals.

Maria Sharapova beat Venus Williams 6-4, 6-3 here last night to march into the women's final tomorrow where the 17-year-old Russian will play either Amélie Mauresmo or Kim Clijsters.

"At this point I don't care who I play," said Sharapova, minutes after beating Williams. "I'm in the final and I feel fantastic." Sharapova edged out the tightest of first sets when errors began to creep into Williams' game as she served at 4-5 down.

"I was serving a little bit better in the first set and then she made a few errors in that game," Sharapova said. "From that point on I gained a lot of confidence." Sharapova went from strength to strength in the second, breaking Williams to go 2-0 up and she remained ahead until she served for the match at 5-3.

Only then did the Russian begin to show any signs of self-doubt. In a long and dramatic ninth game, Sharapova was forced to save her first breakpoints of the match as Williams fought to stay in the tournament.

Eventually, after an hour and 20 minutes, Sharapova watched Williams' final shot sail long on her third match-point and fell to her knees in relief and triumph.

"I think we both fought to the end," Sharapova said. "So many points were so big. I'm a big competitor and I love to fight. Everyone is hungry and everyone wants to beat me so I know that I have to be that way if I want to win."

Earlier, Clijsters thrashed the fourth seed Elena Dementieva, of Russia, 6-2, 6-1 in the quarter-finals. The former world No 1 is unseeded after missing much of last year and the early portion of this year with a left wrist injury. However, two weeks ago the Belgian player beat the current world No 1, Lindsay Davenport, of the United States, in the final of the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells.

Clijsters now plays the top seed Mauresmo for the right to meet Sharapova in the final after the Frenchwoman had earlier routed the unseeded Ana Ivanovic 6-1, 6-4.

Henman is also spearheading a drive to find future British stars after admitting that élitism has caused problems in the past. Heis backing a campaign to find his eventual successor as British No 1 and believes the younger that children start to play the game the better.

"We've got to tackle this because I'm not going to be around forever. We have to make sure we have the future generations of players coming through," Henman said.

In the build-up to Wimbledon in June, Henman will be spearheading the Ariel Tennis Ace talent search, which will give thousands of boys and girls the opportunity to become champions.

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