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Henman Knows What It's Like to Beat Federer

September 11, 2004|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Tim Henman has the advantage over Roger Federer. Henman has beaten Federer six of the eight times they've played.

As one of the few serve-and-volley practitioners left in the game, a throwback who wears white shorts and white shoes and whose most enduring images are of his sad departures every year from Wimbledon -- his British countrymen long for "Our Tim" to win, just once, at his home event -- Henman will get a chance to build his advantage over the world's best player today in a U.S. Open semifinal.

Fifth-seeded Henman, who turned 30 this week, will play top-seeded Federer, a poker-faced, 23-year-old who is trying to make history by becoming the first man since Sweden's Mats Wilander in 1988 to win three of the four major titles in a single season. Switzerland's Federer already owns titles from the 2004 Australian Open and Henman's beloved Wimbledon.

In the day's first semifinal, Lleyton Hewitt, seeded fourth, who had been on a two-year downturn after winning the 2001 Open and 2002 Wimbledon, will try to neutralize the power and forehand of emerging star Joachim Johansson of Sweden. Johansson, 22, is the boyfriend of Hewitt's younger sister, Jaslyn, who was a nationally ranked Australian junior tennis player for a while.

Johansson, who had 30 aces in upsetting defending champion Andy Roddick in five sets Thursday night, has served 106 aces in the tournament, more than anyone. At 6 feet 6, Johansson also has seven inches on Hewitt, who has been a reliable practice partner.

"I've learned a lot of things about Lleyton," Johansson said. "He gives 100% on every point. For me, I developed my game when I practiced with him because I get so many balls back by him. So I've learned to work the ball a little more."

Hewitt, 23, said he would find it "strange" to play Johansson because they often practice together in Adelaide, Australia.

"He's got a lot of firepower, as much as Roddick," Hewitt said. "Doing training with him the last few years has helped his confidence, helped his ranking I think."

Federer has been honest about how much he'd love winning here.

"That would be something," Federer said. "That would be more than enough for me, to win three out of four. We're not there yet. Let's just be patient."

Henman is in his second major semifinal of the year. He was an improbable final four participant at the French Open and had never been past the fourth round here until now. Henman credits Paul Annacone, formerly Pete Sampras' coach, with teaching him to put less pressure on himself and enjoy the process.

"I believe I do put myself under pressure at Wimbledon," Henman said. "I've been better at other places this summer of not trying so hard, if that makes sense."

It has so far.

"I've got to try and play my style," Henman said. "There's no question this is the toughest task in tennis right now, playing Federer. He's the No. 1 player."


U.S. Open


* Elena Dementieva (6), Russia, vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (9), Russia.

HEAD TO HEAD: Tied, 1-1.

On TV: Ch. 2, 5 p.m. PDT.


* Roger Federer (1), Switzerland, vs. Tim Henman (5), Britain.

* Lleyton Hewitt (4), Australia, vs. Joachim Johansson (28), Sweden.

On TV: Ch. 2, beginning at 9 a.m.


* Henman vs. Federer: Henman leads, 6-2.

* Hewitt vs. Johansson: First meeting.

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