Federer, Hewitt Sweep Into Open Final

Saturday, September 11th 2004, 5:51 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Roger Federer kept up his bid to become the first man since 1988 to win three Grand Slam titles in a year, beating Tim Henman 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 Saturday and cruising into the U.S. Open final against Lleyton Hewitt.

The top-seeded Federer did not let the No. 5 Henman get into his chip-and-charge game, and beat the Briton for only the third time in nine career matches.

``It's not that easy, how it looks,'' Federer said. ``It's tough work, especially against Tim, who puts you under pressure.''

The Swiss star can match Mats Wilander's feat from 16 years ago on Sunday when he takes on another guy who's given him trouble in the past. Federer is 5-8 overall against Hewitt, but beat him on his way to winning Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

``He's had the most successful summer of all tennis players,'' Hewitt said

Hewitt played another round of perfect tennis, putting aside his friendship with Joachim Johansson and handling the big Swede's booming serve to breeze 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

Hewitt has not lost a set in winning six straight matches at Flushing Meadows. No man has won the U.S. Open without dropping a set since Neale Fraser in 1960.

``I haven't spent a lot of energy out there,'' Hewitt said.

Federer moved into his first Open final with his 16th straight win against a top-10 player.

``He's playing absolutely phenomenal tennis,'' Henman said. ``I'd have liked to play a bit longer today, but my Swiss friend had other ideas.''

Federer is 3-0 in Grand Slam title matches, and is trying to become the first man to win his first four tries. Hewitt has won both of his Grand Slam finals, at the 2001 Open and 2002 Wimbledon.

On Saturday night, the all-Russian women's final matched Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The fourth-seeded Hewitt and No. 28 Johansson had never played for real, though they were plenty familiar with each other. Johansson's longtime girlfriend, Jaslyn, is Hewitt's sister _ not wanting to take sides, she sat upstairs in a private suite at Arthur Ashe Stadium, rather than in either player's private box nearer the court.

``It was the best thing for her to sit up there,'' Johansson said.

Over the past two December breaks, Johansson stayed with the Hewitt family in Australia and played on their backyard court, practicing with Lleyton.

``It's definitely a bit awkward,'' Hewitt said. ``My parents and sister sit in his box all week long.''

Asked whom he thought Jaslyn rooted for, Hewitt said, ``It has to be her brother.'' Back in the locker room, Johansson razzed Hewitt.

``He's not going to get me a Christmas present,'' Hewitt said. ``He reckons that was mine today.''

While Jaslyn, a 21-year-old player on a lesser pro circuit, was caught in the middle, the match between her 23-year-old brother and 22-year-old boyfriend was no match.

Hewitt won his 16th straight match overall, closing it out with taking the final 12 points. He had only 14 unforced errors after having just 10 in his quarterfinal win over Tommy Haas.

Hewitt never gave Johansson a chance to get his rhythm. After a tribute before the third set to the rescue workers of 9-11, Hewitt came back out and kept up the pressure.

Johansson's best chance was overpowering Hewitt with his serve, and it didn't work. True to form, Hewitt managed to get those rockets back just fine.

``He gets a lot of balls back,'' Johansson said. ``I'm used to that when I've been practicing with him. Today he got it back very low, so it was tough for me to hit winners from that position.''

Johansson relied on his serve in beating Andy Roddick in the quarters, and began the day with 106 total aces, the most in the tournament. He finished with 17 aces to Hewitt's nine.

On the other hand, Johansson had only one break chance the entire afternoon. He missed it, and the fifth game of the day went to Hewitt.

``He's got a lot of talent. He's obviously a little bit raw at the moment,'' Hewitt said.

Johansson made it into last year's Open as a qualifier and lost in the first round. He certainly didn't plan on sticking around too long this time _ he recently gave his dad a golfing trip to Scotland as a birthday present, and intended to join him earlier in the week.

Johansson might want to brush up on the links in the meantime. Because when he comes to visit again in a few months, Hewitt wants to get him out on the course.

``I'll probably practice my golf against him,'' Hewitt said.