Henman wins through to final with Federer

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The Independent Online

Tim Henman cruised into the final of the Pacific Life Open with a 6-3 6-2 win over Irakli Labadze in Indian Wells, California, last night.

Tim Henman cruised into the final of the Pacific Life Open with a 6-3 6-2 win over Irakli Labadze in Indian Wells, California, last night.

The British No 1, the tournament's number nine seed, had been expected to outclass his little-known Georgian opponent, who was competing in his first ATP semi-final.

He duly obliged to book a date with Roger Federer of Switzerland. The world No 1 outlasted Andre Agassi of the United States 4-6 6-3 6-4 to set up an intriguing final. Federer has now won 26 of his last 27 matches, his only defeat in that stretch coming at the hands of the Briton. In total, Henman has prevailed in six of their previous seven meetings.

Henman took just over an hour to see off Labadze, firing five aces against just two double faults and securing four breaks of serve to his opponent's one.

Federer and Agassi slugged it out from the baseline in the 38 deg C heat, with the Wimbledon champion's fleetness of foot finally turning the match his way.

"I've won a couple of really tight matches against Roger and perhaps caught him on slight off-days," Henman said looking ahead to the final.

"I've taken advantage of that and it gives me confidence, but we'll wipe the slate clean and I'm sure we'll both be trying to show our authority on the court."

It is also the second time in three years Henman has reached the final of this event, although he will be hoping to fare better than his 6-1 6-2 loss to Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.

Labadze had surprised everyone in reaching the last four but Henman revealed he had been determined not to underestimate the 22-year-old. "He's had such a good week and I was very conscious that I didn't want to add to his list of big victories," said Henman. "I felt that I wanted to try and dictate the play a little bit to him. If you give him a chance to use his power, then you are going to do a lot of running," he added.

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