Nadal beats Henman to reach Dubai semis
DUBAI, Mar 2 (Reuters) World number two Rafael Nadal today withstood a strong first-set challenge before defeating Britain's Tim Henman 7-6 6-1 to reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Open today.
Henman, 31, showed considerable class against the Spanish teenager but he lacked consistency and was ultimately overpowered even though he held the advantage early in both sets.
''The first set was tough,'' Nadal said. ''Henman played very aggressively. He's a very good player and it's difficult when he plays his slice. It's unbelievable and I had some problems.
''I also had some problems in some games with my serve...
but I finished the match serving much better.'' Henman was unable to convert three break points in the second game and two more after Nadal had broken to lead 3-2 with a return off a second serve.
The French Open champion led 5-3 and held four set points on Henman's serve. Henman eventually held with an ace and a double-fault then allowed Nadal to level at 5-5.
After a tiebreak in which Henman managed to earn just one point Nadal had to resist three break points at 1-1.
He then broke Henman to love with a forehand winner that grazed the sideline.
After holding to love, Nadal broke for 5-1 when Henman netted a forehand and Nadal closed out the match with his ninth ace.
Henman was able to draw several positives from his defeat, not least that his fragile back has given him no trouble this week.
''I think at the start of the match I was the one playing the better tennis and dictating the play, and when you get those opportunities you've got to try and take them,'' said Henman, who this week surrendered his British number ranking to Andy Murray.
''It's good and bad. I feel frustrated with the outcome, obviously, and somewhat disappointed with my performance.
''But in the context of playing the guy two in the world it's a good sign that I'm feeling that way about my game...
''I felt fine on the court and my back has been excellent, so it's been a very, very positive week.
Russia's Mikhail Youzhny reached his first semi-final of the year and a possible meeting with world number one Roger Federer when he overwhelmed Olivier Rochus of Belgium 6-3 6-1.
REUTERS SC KP2049