Hewitt beats Henman in straight sets to reach final

Friday, July 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) _ Lleyton Hewitt is going to the Wimbledon final for the first time. Tim Henman is going out as a semifinal loser for the fourth time.

The top-seeded Hewitt overwhelmed Henman in straight sets Friday to close in on his second Grand Slam title, ending the British player's latest attempt to become the first homegrown champion since 1936.

On another day of rain delays, the Australian played a nearly faultless counter-punching baseline game and won 7-5, 6-1, 7-5.

It was a masterful performance by the world's top-ranked player, who mixed powerful ground strokes, flashing returns, topspin lobs and all-court hustle to beat Henman for the sixth straight time.

Henman, who faded after the first set, has now lost in the semifinals in four of the past five years. This tournament had been considered his best chance of ending Britain's Wimbledon curse and becoming the first male champ since Fred Perry 66 years ago.

But ``Henmania'' is finished for yet another year. And Queen Elizabeth II, who had been expected to attend Sunday's final in her 50th jubilee year if Henman made it that far, can make other plans.

Hewitt will be an overwhelming favorite in the final, where he'll face the winner of the other semifinal between relative unknowns Xavier Malisse and David Nalbandian.

Sisters Venus and Serena Williams will meet in the women's final Saturday.