Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt reached his 4th Queen's final as Tim Henman suffered a disappointing semi-final defeat having led by a break in the final set. Hewitt, who won Wimbledon in 2002, will face James Blake for the championship match.
"It's very difficult to play like that when you sort of lose all confidence."
Henman's concentration droped by a controversial late out call at a crucial point in the third game of the deciding set, which handed his opponent the break back for 2-2.
After calling the supervisor courtside to complain, Henman was broken twice more in succession and dropped to an obvious 6-3 3-6 6-2 defeat.
Henman had appeared to have got to grips with an opponent who had beaten him in eight of their previous nine meetings, but crucially not their most recent one in Miami earlier this year.
Taking much power off the ball and sticking to the baseline with few exceptions, Henman visibly grew in confidence as the match went on and made himself a clear favourite before the late twist.
TENNIS 2006 ATP Queen's Club Hewitt L. - Henman T.
Image credit: Reuters
It looked like being a different story in a first set in which Hewitt started much the better player and dropped only three points on his own serve, breaking Henman in the fourth game to take the initiative.
But finding his range much better at the start of the second, Henman immediately began making inroads into the Hewitt serve and scored his first break with a powerful forehand to go 4-2 ahead.
Two controversial calls in the following service game kindled Henman's ire but he managed to save a break point and serve out to stay ahead and closed out the set two games later.
Henman was flying in the third as he produced an exemplary game to break Hewitt to love and consolidated his advantage by going 2-0 ahead in fine style.
But two games later came the pivotal moment of the match when, facing break point down, Henman hit a forehand which the linesman initially called in before over-ruling himself.
With the crowd booing and Henman visibly rattled, Hewitt seized his opportunity to race through the remainder of the match and claim his place in the final against 5th seed James Blake, who upset upset triple defending champion Andy Roddick 7-5 6-4, for the first time in his career.
Blake stops Roddick
Blake, who will play his 4th final of the season, contained Roddick's rocket serve and outhit him from the baseline
Hardcourt specialist Blake has never been beyond round two at Wimbledon and had little expectations against Roddick, runner-up at the grasscourt grand slam for the last two years.
However, he neutralised Roddick's world-record serve by stepping in early to hit his returns and outplayed the defending champion in the rallies.
TENNIS - 2006 ATP Queen's - Blake 1st Rnd
Image credit: Reuters
"That's what I needed to do to beat a great player like him," beamed Blake after sliding a backhand winner down the line on his second match point.
"I had to take my chances and today they were going in."
Blake has reason to be confident in Sunday's final too. He beat Australian Hewitt on hardcourt to win the Las Vegas title in March.