Henman's grit defeats Federer

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The Independent Online

Tim Henman extended his unbeaten record against Roger Federer when he knocked the world No 1 out of the World Tennis Tournament here last night.

The Wimbledon champion had not beaten Henman in five attempts and despite a brief rally from the tournament's top seed, Henman dug in to record another impressive straight-sets victory, 6-3, 7-6.

Henman faces another stern test today when he meets the former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the semi-final. His record against Hewitt does not bode well. The pair have met six times, with the Australian winning each encounter - their last match coming in the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 2002.

"To win in straight sets is always good for your self-confidence," Henman said last night. "But on the flip side, I don't have a good record against Hewitt."

The opening set went with serve until the eighth game, when Federer struck a forehand into the net to hand Henman an opening he accepted to close out 6-3. Federer looked determined to break his duck against Henman as he took an early break in the second set but Henman's attacking serve-volley play was causing frustration and Federer was forced to save four break points as he moved 3-2 ahead.

A double fault from Henman, seeded fifth, handed the Swiss player his second break of serve, only for the 22-year-old to show nerves of his own. Henman drew Federer forwards and landed a perfect lob, before a forehand into the net caused the Wimbledon champion to lose both the game and his composure, smashing his racket to the floor in frustration.

Henman levelled at 4-4 but it was Federer who found his range from the baseline to leave Henman serving to stay in the set. This time, Henman kept his composure and levelled at 5-5, before putting Federer on the back foot with cross-court passing shots to force break point. Henman put a second serve return wide and Federer made no mistake to claim a 6-5 lead.

Henman held his service game but Federer was soon 3-0 up in the tie-break. Then from 5-1 down, the British No 1 produced an astonishing rally to level the tie-break at 6-6. He saved another set point, albeit watching Federer's drop shot drift agonisingly close to the baseline, before missing a match point against serve.

Henman then saved his fifth set point before setting up another match point. Henman sent Federer's serve looping over the Swiss into the back court. Federer made a showboat return through his legs, but Henman smashed a cross-court forehand to seal a memorable victory, 11-9 on the tie-break.