Final awaits for Federer
Swiss number one Roger Federer has reached the final of the Swiss Indoors tennis tournament in his home town of Basel after beating France's Julien Boutter in straight sets (7-6, 6-4).
Both players struggled to make much headway against each other's powerful service game in the opening set, but aggressive play by Federer in the subsequent tie-break was enough to see the local hero edge ahead.
Visibly struggling with an injury to his right arm during the second set, Boutter nevertheless continued to make life difficult for the 20-year-old Swiss star, with Federer having to defend (successfully) the first break point against him at 1-2.
In the ninth game of the set, Federer was finally able to impose himself against the ailing Frenchman. A fortunate lobbed return into the corner of the court gave the young Swiss three break points, only one of which he needed to go 5-4 up.
Serving out to love in the last game of the match, Federer's performance produced a deafening roar from the partisan crowd in the arena where not so long ago he was a mere ballboy.
"You can feel the atmosphere out there," a delighted Federer told swissinfo after Saturday's win, "especially when it gets to the end of the match. Just the sound when the match is over and you can't even hear yourself - it's the best feeling you can have as a tennis player."
On Sunday the Swiss number one will be contesting his second successive Basel final and hoping to go one better than year, when he lost a thrilling five-set final to Sweden's Thomas Enqvist.
This year's opponent is likely to pose just as big a challenge for Federer. In Saturday's second semi-final British world number 11 Tim Henman raced to a 6-1, 6-4 win over Spain's Carlos Moya (ATP 22) to set up a tantalising final.
The Englishman has won all three of his previous meetings with Federer, but after this year's agonisingly close defeat at Wimbledon the Swiss player is confident of his chances.
"I was unbelievably close in Wimbledon and now I'm playing in front of my home crowd," Federer said. "I just hope my serve can help me out in difficult moments. Tim's also one of my rivals in the race for the Sydney Championships so I really hope to beat him."
by Mark Ledsom, Basel
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