Published — Sunday 12 September 2004
Last Update 12 September 2004 3:00 am
NEW YORK, 12 September 2004 — Lleyton Hewitt tamed big-hitting Swede Joachim Johansson to reach his second US Open final, cruising through 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 in one hour 59 minutes yesterday. One service break in each set was enough for the 2001 champion to extend his winning roll to 16 and set up a final against Roger Federer or Tim Henman.
The 23-year-old Hewitt withstood an early barrage from Johansson, saving a solitary break point, before breaking the 28th seed’s ferocious serve for the first time in the 10th game.
Johansson, who stunned defending champion Andy Roddick to become the first Swede to reach the last four here since Stefan Edberg in 1992, had looked solid until that point but paid the price for three forehand errors and a wild smash.
Hewitt, who is yet to drop a set at Flushing Meadows this year, appeared totally in control during the second set despite being taken to deuce when serving at 3-3. Johansson, nearly two meters tall, boomed down 17 aces during the contest, taking his tournament tally to 123, but Hewitt ruthlessly pounced on the slightest opening.
With the Swede serving at 5-6 in the second set Hewitt went 30-15 ahead after racing to reach a drop shot and then winning a sharp volleying exchange. Two points later Johansson’s wayward forehand produced a fist-pumping reaction from Hewitt as he moved two sets ahead.
Hewitt never looked like relinquishing his hold, breaking to love for a 5-3 lead in the third before serving out for victory. The match was watched by Hewitt’s sister Jaslyn, who is also Johansson’s long-term girlfriend.
“I think she would have to go for the brother,” Hewitt joked when asked who Jaslyn was supporting. “It was a bit awkward for both of us but we just had to put our professional hats on,” added Hewitt, who practices regularly with Johansson when the Swede visits the family home in Adelaide.
“I’ve been playing well all through the hardcourt season and there’s just one match to go now.”
Former world No. 1 Hewitt will be playing in his first grand slam final since winning Wimbledon in 2002.
On Friday, Elena Dementieva broke the heart of Jennifer Capriati when her spine-tingling 6-0, 2-6, 7-6 victory over the American to set up an all-Russian US Open final against Svetlana Kuznetsova.
A match that began with a whimper slowly came to the boil and ended with one of the most nerve-wracking deciding sets ever seen at Flushing Meadows as Dementieva lined up the second all-Russian grand slam final this year. Earlier, Kuznetsova beat injury-hit former champion Lindsay Davenport 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the first semifinal.
“It was very difficult to play with the wind today so I was trying to go to the net because that was the only way I could win this match,” Dementieva, 22, told reporters. Anastasia Myskina became the first Russian woman to win a grand slam title when she beat Dementieva to land the French Open in June and Maria Sharapova followed up by lifting the Wimbledon crown in July.
“It really surprises me as much as it surprises you,” said Dementieva. “I know there are a lot of us who play well but to see another grand slam final with two Russians.” Capriati, three times a semifinal loser here, made a nightmare start, winning only five points in a 17-minute first set as her opponent pounded winners all over the court. Capriati quickly got on top in the second set, breaking in the fifth game before going on to line up a dramatic decider.
Finally, the match began to live up to expectations with four consecutive service breaks at the start of the third set as the rallies grew longer and more punishing.
One extraordinary point in the first game had both players gasping for breath after a fierce 49-stroke rally that ended with Dementieva missing a volley with the court at her mercy.
At 4-4, Dementieva somehow clung on to her wavering serve despite Capriati having four break points, but the American did break two games later to serve for the match.
With nearly every point producing extraordinary drama, Dementieva showed immense courage to drag Capriati into a tiebreak.
The Russian went 5-2 ahead and then 6-4 and, although the battling Capriati saved one match point, she was powerless as Dementieva battered a backhand down the line for victory.
Dementieva froze on the big stage when she was hammered by Myskina in Paris but the Russian said she was confident of performing well in the final here. For Capriati, who let slip a 5-2 lead in the final set of her semifinal against Justine Henin-Hardenne last year before losing in a tiebreak, the conditions were the main factor.