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It's No. 1 Heat at Indian Wells

Top-seeded Federer cranks out 6-3, 6-3 victory over Henman, the only one who had been able to defeat him in his 22-1 start.

March 22, 2004|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

One by one, his nemeses have fallen by the wayside.

It's almost as though Roger Federer of Switzerland gave a slight nudge to one and it created a domino effect, with his rivals all clattering to the ground. The latest to tumble was Tim Henman of Britain on Sunday.

Federer needed only two sets and 67 minutes to correct the record against Henman. The No. 1-seeded Federer defeated No. 9 Henman, 6-3, 6-3, in the men's final of the Pacific Life Open on an uncomfortably hot day at Indian Wells Tennis Garden, committing only five unforced errors.

Neither history nor heat nor Henman could slow Federer.

History? This was the first time Federer had defeated Henman in a completed match. This was their eighth meeting, and though Federer beat him two years ago in Miami in the fourth round, the match ended after one set when Henman retired because of a neck injury.

Heat? Just another nice, toasty day at Indian Wells. During the final, the temperature reached 100 degrees, and it was considerably hotter on the court, reaching 116.

"I would say it's strange here, if you sit still, really the sun gets to you," said Federer, who won $421,600. "I don't know, if you keep moving, you feel the wind."

Henman? He remains the only player to defeat Federer in 2004, taking him out in the quarterfinals at Rotterdam last month. Sunday, however, was a different story from the start, as he was broken three times and found himself unable to make the slightest of impact on Federer's serve. Federer never faced break point and got stronger.

Twice Henman reached 30-30 on Federer's serve, in the opening game and in the third game, and never again after that.

"The first couple of service games, his service games, were the only ones where I had half a chance," said Henman, who received $210,800 for reaching the final. "It's those types of opportunities that you really have to capitalize on. Ended up he needed just one chance on my serve, and he took it. That really sort of dictated the rest of the match."

It wasn't as though Federer did it with sheer power on his serve. He had three aces, and no double faults, but he carved up Henman with his placement and spin on his service action.

"It's not like a [Andy] Roddick serve," Henman said. "He's not standing up there and serving a lot of aces or even unreturnable serves, but his variation is so good. He's looking for that weak reply."

And this was coming from the only player to defeat Federer this year. Federer's 22-1 start has surpassed another widely quoted benchmark, Andre Agassi's 22-2 start in 2001.

So often you can look to one turning point in a match or career-changing week. For Federer, the defining moment appears to be the season-ending Masters Cup at Houston in November. Although he was the reigning Wimbledon champion, Federer still had problems with the likes of Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, Agassi, David Nalbandian of Argentina and Henman.

But Federer won the title there and has won 27 of 28 matches since.

"Houston was very important for me because I had problems beating Agassi, Hewitt, Nalbandian," Federer said. "Roddick ... also. I beat him again after he beat me in Montreal.

"For me, that was an unbelievable turning point in my career. I know how to beat all these guys. Same as [Juan Carlos] Ferrero, as well. But now beating all these guys, Hewitt at the Australian Open, and now Tim here, finally. I feel like now there's not many guys left who have really an edge on me. I think that is very important for me for the rest of the season."

In Melbourne, he defeated Hewitt, Nalbandian, Ferrero and Marat Safin to win the Australian Open. At Indian Wells, he had to go through Agassi and Henman in his last two matches. Never mind that he has operated without a coach since splitting with longtime mentor Peter Lundgren after Houston last year.

Not that he has had any shortage of offers from the kindest of strangers -- even during autograph-signing sessions.

"They tell me, 'If you need help, here is my card,' " Federer said, smiling. " 'I'll check out your shot.' I don't know. It's funny."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Men's Champions

A look at the Indian Wells men's champions:

*--* YEAR WINNER RUNNER-UP SCORE 2004 Roger Federer Tim Henman 6-3, 6-3 2003 Lleyton Hewitt Gustavo Kuerten 6-1, 6-1 2002 Lleyton Hewitt Tim Henman 6-1, 6-2 2001 Andre Agassi Pete Sampras 7-6, 7-5, 6-1 2000 Alex Corretja Thomas Enqvist 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 1999 Mark Philippoussis Carlos Moya 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 1998 Marcelo Rios Greg Rusedski 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 1997 Michael Chang Bohdan Ulihrach 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 1996 Michael Chang Paul Haarhuis 7-5, 6-1, 6-1 1995 Pete Sampras Andre Agassi 7-5, 6-3, 7-5 1994 Pete Sampras Petr Korda 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 1993 Jim Courier Wayne Ferreira 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 1992 Michael Chang Andrei Chesnokov 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 1991 Jim Courier Guy Forget 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 1990 Stefan Edberg Andre Agassi 6-4, 5-7, 7-6, 7-6 1989 Miloslav Mecir Yannick Noah 3-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 1988 Boris Becker Emilio Sanchez 7-5, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4

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