Skill and will of Moya leave Henman in cold

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The most picturesque centre court in the world was reduced to drabness on a cold, damp night under the floodlights at the Monte Carlo Open as Tim Henman's attempt to become the first Briton to reach the singles final here for 42 years foundered.

Barely 500 hardy spectators remained after an afternoon of thunder storms as Henman and Carlos Moya, his Spanish opponent, commenced their semi-final at 8pm. Two hours and 12 minutes later, Henman's memorable week on the slow clay courts came to an end. Moya's skill and experience on the surface – in 1998 he won both the Monte Carlo Open and the French Open – proved decisive. The former world No. 1 from Majorca won 6-4 5-7 6-3.

As Moya left to prepare to meet his compatriot, Juan Carlos Ferrero, in today's final, the British contingent were left with the sepia pages of the record book: Britain's last finalist, Mike Davies, of Wales, was defeated by Andres Gimeno, of Spain, in 1960. Britain's last champion here was Bunny Austin, who won the title in 1933 and 1934. John Lloyd, like Henman, was a semi-finalist, losing to Bob Hewitt, of South Africa, in 1975.

Given the inhospitable conditons, the handicap of a strained stomach muscle, and the mental and physical effort it had taken advance to the first clay-court semi-final of his career, Henman could not have done much more.

Relying on the combination of aggression and patience that saw him successfully through difficult matches against three Latin American clay-court specialists and Thomas Johansson, the Australian Open champion, Henman broke Moya in the opening game. Henman then recovered after losing his serve in the fourth game and led 4-2. Moya, however, was able to drive the ball solidly and soon, Henman was having to trade shots from the base-line, and the Spaniard broke for 4-4 and 6-4 to take the set after 35 minutes.

Henman, though broken in the fourth game of the second set, persevered and recovered the break on his fifth break point in the next game. He then broke for 4-5, only for Moya deny him when he was serving for the set for the first time. Henman persisted, and, after breaking for 6-5, served out the set.

A major upset seemed possible after Henman broke in the opening game of the final set but Moya recovered the break en route to winning 14 points in a row to lead 4-1 and Henman's spirit was not enough to save him this time.

Ferrero emerged from the earlier rain delays to win the opening semi-final, defeating Sebastien Grosjean of France 6-3 1-6 6-0. As the score shows, there were huge swings of fortune. Grosjean, who had not dropped a set en route to his second consecutive semi-final here, was out-thought and out-played in the opening six games, Ferrero breaking twice to lead, 5-1.

Then came the first sign of the Frenchman's characteristic fighting spirit as he delayed Ferrero's cruise by attacking the Spaniard as he served for the set. The recovery was too late to alter the outcome of the set, which Ferrero won 6-3, but revived Grosjean.

Thunderclaps accompanied the cheers as Grosjean broke twice to take a 5-0 lead, but and a downpour interrupted play as Ferrero was about to serve to save the set. When play resumed after two and a half hours, Grosjean completed the job.

Ferrero responded by winning the opening two games of the final set before another deluge interrupted play for an hour and 44 minutes. The momentum stayed with the Spaniard when the match resumed under floodlights.