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Tim Henman reached the semi-finals of the US Open for the first time in his career with a rain-interrupted 6-1 7-5 5-7 6-2 victory over Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty.
The British number one will face the stiffest of tasks in Saturday's semi-final when he faces world number one Roger Federer. The Swiss defeated the veteran American Andre Agassi 6-3 2-6 7-5 3-6 6-3 in an epic encounter that also spanned two days after Federer led by two sets to one when play was halted on Wednesday night. But Henman can take heart from the fact that he has beaten Federer twice in the past year, although he lost their last encounter in March.
Henman's match also began on Wednesday night after a lengthy rain delay, but was halted with him leading two sets to none and serving at 4-5 in the third set. When play resumed yesterday Hrbarty quickly took the third set on a humid, blustery afternoon, but Henman broke the Slovakian in the opening game of the fourth set and broke him again in the fifth game to book his date with Federer.
After struggling through three five-set marathons en route to the quarter-finals, Henman finally showed some efficiency in dispatching the 22nd seeded Hrbaty. Demonstrating the poise that comes from having endured more than a few rain delays over the years at the All England Club, Henman came out on Wednesday night untroubled by the long wait and with his serve-and-volley game as crisp as it has ever been. He surged through the first set in just 23 minutes, and though Hrbaty found his range in the second, Henman got the only break he needed at 5-5 to close out the second set.
Showing no signs of the back injury that has bedevilled him in recent weeks, Henman notched another break at 1-1 in the third and looked set to make it an early evening. Instead, it was the rain that brought matters to a halt. Serving at 4-3, Henman threw in a pair of double faults and handed back the advantage. When Hrbaty took the third, it looked as if another marathon was in store for Henman, but he quickly righted himself, in the process becoming the first Briton since Greg Rusedski in 1997 to reach the semi-finals at Flushing.
Henman's success in New York caps what has been a terrific summer for the 30-year-old veteran. In June, he made an improbable run to the semi-finals of the French, followed several weeks later by yet another appearance in a Wimbledon quarter-final.
But Henman will face his sternest challenge yet at the weekend, and though his back and his legs have held up through five matches and some fickle weather, it is going to take extraordinary performance for him to go any further.
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