Roddick survives challenge from Chile's Gonzalez

Updated: April 9, 2006, 11:34 PM ET
Associated Press

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Andy Roddick relishes playing Davis Cup for his country, and likes his role as the team's "closer."

Roddick beat Chile's Fernando Gonzalez in four sets Sunday to clinch the Davis Cup quarterfinal, the seventh time Roddick has locked up a round for the United States.

"I guess I'm the one in the right place at the right time," Roddick said. "I always play first on the last day. I like playing on the third day, and my team has always put me in position to come through.b

"It feels good. I just hope I can keep it going."

With Gonzalez playing well early, Roddick had to come from behind to take a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 victory that gave the United States an insurmountable 3-1 lead. The closing singles match then became an exhibition, and Chile reserve Paul Capdeville defeated James Blake 6-3, 6-4 to make the final score 3-2.

The Americans will play at Russia -- a 4-1 winner over France on Sunday -- in the semifinals.

"They're a tough team. For the first time in a while, we're not the favorites going in," Roddick said. "It will be a tough one, and cold as well."

With the festive crowd's similar-sounding cheers of "USA! USA!" and "Chile! Chile!" at times seeming to blend into one chant, Roddick began to assert himself in the 11th game of the second set.

He broke Gonzalez's serve for the first time, then held serve to even the match.

Cranking up his serve-and-volley game, keeping the ball mostly to Gonzalez's backhand and making several spectacular volleys for winners, Roddick was in control the rest of the way.

He finished with 14 aces, several in the mid 140-mph range, to Gonzalez's 12, and with a staggering 36-11 edge in points won at the net. Twice, Roddick dived far to his left at the net to hit spectacular winners off powerful shots by Gonzalez.

"I just kind of laid out and was lucky to make a couple of them," he said.

After he wrapped up the 2-hour, 21-minute match in the desert heat, Roddick did a rather ungainly slide on the grass court, then leaped into the air and waved an American flag before taking a victory lap with teammates Blake and Bob and Mike Bryan around the stadium at Mission Hills Country Club.

"You're excited, you're relieved, you're pumped up. Your teammates come over and you're happy. There are a lot of good emotions running through you," said Roddick, whose teammates call him "our closer."

As usual with Davis Cup play, the crowd often resembled ones more common at soccer than tennis. Both countries' colors are red, white and blue, so even the fans' regalia seemed to meld. The Chileans were in the minority in numbers, maybe a third of the 4,030 fans, but not in decibels, with much whistling, booing, singing and lots of "Ole, Ole, Chile!"

The U.S. fans responded with "An-Dee, Roddick!"

Chile coach Hans Gildemeister spent a lot of time on his feet, grousing at umpire Pascal Maria of France about line calls. After one close call in the third set went Roddick's way, Gildemeister leaped from his chair and Gonzalez tossed his racket toward the net.

Afterward, Gildemeister said he thought there were a couple of missed calls, but that he realizes that the umpire's has a difficult job.

Dean Goldfine, filling in for U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe during the matches, said Gildemeister was simply doing his job to "maybe gain a little advantage for his team."

"It got a little interesting out there," Goldfine said. "I was just trying to the same thing, just make sure I had my players' backs."

Despite being the junior member of the U.S. team at 23, Roddick's match was his 27th in Davis Cup, and he has won 20 of them. He also avenged a third-round loss to Gonzalez in the 2004 Olympics.

After the United States lost to eventual champion Croatia in last year's opening round, Roddick helped keep the Americans in the World Group competition by winning the clinching match of the playoff in Belgium last fall. He then clinched this year's opening-round victory over Romania in February.

Roddick evened the matches against Chile at 1-1, defeating Nicolas Massu in straight sets on Friday after Gonzalez had beaten Blake in a five-set, 4-hour, 20-minute marathon in the opener.

The Bryan twins gave the United States a 2-1 lead on Saturday, when they beat reserves Adrian Garcia and Capdeville in straight sets. Gildemeister planned to use Gonzalez and Massu in doubles, but went with the other two because Gonzalez played such a long match the previous day.

McEnroe, back home in New York with his wife awaiting the birth of their first child, said he probably felt more stress watching on TV than if he had been courtside.

"I was really happy with the guys," McEnroe said, speaking to reporters by telephone. "I was very impressed with Andy. He was very composed, and his serve just got better and better. With his two matches, I think he answered a lot of questions about where he's going this year."

The United States has won the most Davis Cup titles, 31, but hasn't taken one since 1995. Chile has never won the Cup, and was in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1982.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press