Federer, Henman advance to final

Saturday, October 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BASEL, Switzerland (AP) _ Britain's Tim Henman romped to a two set victory Saturday over Spain's Carlos Moya to face local favorite Roger Federer in the final of the dlrs 1 million Swiss Indoors tennis tournament.

Henman, the No. 2 seed, needed just 1 hour, 12 minutes to knock out Moya 6-1, 6-4 in the semifinals. Federer ousted France's Julien Boutter 7-6 (3), 6-4.

The result set up a dream final for the tournament organizers, helping to offset disappointment over the late withdrawal of Andre Agassi _ who became the proud father of a son with his wife Steffi Graf in Las Vegas, according to a report Saturday in Germany's Bild Zeitung.

Henman has long been a favorite at the Basel event, capturing the crown against Andre Agassi in 1998 and losing narrowly the following year. Federer lost in the final here last year to Thomas Enqvist of Sweden.

``I'm in a totally different frame of mind from last time I was here,'' Henman said. ``I've made a lot of improvements in my game and certainly have a lot more experience. Whatever happens, it's been a good week.''

Henman's advance to the final boosted his chances of picking up enough points to qualify for the Masters Tournament in Sydney.

Henman got off to a rocky start, losing his service game. But he immediately broke back and won all the remaining games in the first set, the relatively slow carpet surface favoring his trademark slice.

After reaching the finals without losing a single set, Henman is likely to find that Federer proves a tougher challenger.

``He's obviously a phenomenal talent,'' Henman said of the 20-year-old Swiss. ``But we are both playing well at the moment, so we'll have to see.''

Federer, who hails from Basel, is ranked 13th in the ATP standings, two places below Henman.

Federer has made a rapid ascent up the world rankings and become a local hero in the process.

``From year to year I have the impression that I gain more experience and am less tired,'' Federer said after his victory against Boutter.

The Frenchman showed the greater technical skill of the two. Although Boutter's serve and baseline shots were undoubtedly more powerful, it was Federer who picked up vital points with crafty sideline balls and clever volleys. He also managed 10 aces _ double the number of Boutter.

``Boutter placed a better serve and showed more speed,'' Federer said. ``But in the end that didn't matter.''

``I was surprised I got more aces than him. Maybe it had something to do with his shoulder,'' he said

Boutter was troubled by a nagging pain in his right shoulder and asked for a brief medical time-out early in the second set.

``I was bothered by my shoulder, but not seriously handicapped,'' the 27-year-old Frenchman said. ``Once the pain increased I tried to reduce the speed of my serve.''

Boutter, ranked 64th in the world, caused a shock at the start of the week by ejecting Gustavo Kuerten, the top seed and world's No. 1, in the first round.

``I was unlucky today but I have nothing to reproach myself with,'' Boutter said.

Federer captured headlines by defeating defending champion Pete Sampras at this year's Wimbledon, only to succumb to Henman in a gripping four-set quarterfinal. Henman then lost to eventual winner Goran Ivanisevic in the semis.

``I've got a winning record against Federer, but the matches have been very, very close,'' Henman said. ``We both go into the final confident. We know each other's matches and have practiced together this week.''

Federer's brilliant performances in both the singles and doubles were responsible for Switzerland's shock 3-2 Davis Cup victory over the United States earlier this year _ although the Swiss were ousted in the following round by France.

He said that Friday's nail-biting three-set victory over American teen Andy Roddick _ one of the other rising stars on the tennis circuit _ had boosted his confidence.

``Both Henman and Moya serve more slowly than my previous two opponents,'' said Federer of Roddick and Boutter. ``I was surprised how good my returns were.''