Roddick wins on favorite surface to send USA to semis

Updated: April 18, 2006, 10:38 AM ET
By Bonnie DeSimone | Special to ESPN.com

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Andy Roddick was on his turf Sunday, literally and figuratively.

The world No. 4 has had a far-from-perfect season thus far, but he preserved his spotless record in Davis Cup clinchers Sunday on grass at the Mission Hills Country Club. Roddick doused some early fire from Chile's Fernando Gonzalez and sent the U.S. team into the semifinals against Russia with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 victory.

Andy Roddick
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonRoddick, who has struggled this season, defended his turf Sunday with a decisive win on grass.
Roddick celebrated with a head-first belly slide on the grass, seemingly on home base at last. He'll try to carry that momentum with him as he enters the clay-court season. Dirt isn't his favorite surface, but he wants to do something more than mark time until he returns to grass in June.

"It feels good, I'm not gonna lie," said Roddick, who is now 7-0 in the decisive match of a Davis Cup round. "I've had a lot of frustrating moments this season and it feels like a lot of the work that's been put in is paying off. But I'm not going to get overexcited."

Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe watched from his home in New York City, where he and his wife, Melissa Errico, are awaiting the birth of their first child. Assistant Dean Goldfine stood in for him this weekend.

"I was very impressed with Andy today," McEnroe said. "He weathered the storm and stayed extremely composed. ... He answered a lot of questions about where he's headed this year."

Roddick's brother John, who is his personal coach, called the pressure-packed wins, against No. 18 Gonzalez on Sunday and No. 37 Nicolas Massu on Friday, Andy's "two best matches of the year," and predicted the positive effect would linger.

The U.S. team, in search of its first Davis Cup title since 1995, will play Russia in Moscow on Sept. 22-24. The Americans have reached the finals twice since their last championship, losing to Spain in 2004 and Sweden in 1997.

Argentina upset defending champion Croatia on the other side of the draw and will host Australia in the semis.

The Roddick-Gonzalez match featured heat on heat in the desert heat -- two emotional, big-swinging players who are ardent about Davis Cup play.

Gonzalez, backed by his usual rowdy chorus of Chilean fans, had more firepower early, breaking Roddick in his second service game of the first set with a backhand return winner.

Serving at 3-all in the second set, Roddick's adrenaline seemed to surge when he threw himself horizontally parallel to the net, Boris Becker-like, and nicked a forehand volley winner to go up 40-30. The prone Roddick did a quick push-up before rising, then uncorked an ace to win that game.

He made another acrobatic maneuver to salvage another crucial point in the same set.

"It was an unbelievable point," Gonzalez said of Roddick's first dive. "Maybe it could be play of the week."

Roddick saw it that way, too.

"The swing that would've taken place had I not made those would have been pretty severe," he said.

Gonzalez lost his serve in the final game of the set and was irritated by a late call on his first serve on the last point. The ensuing discussion between him, Chilean captain Hans Gildemeister and chair umpire Pascal Maria of France was just a hint of things to come.

Roddick asserted control over the match early in the third set, breaking Gonzalez in the second game. Gonzalez then lost his serve and his composure after two questionable line calls helped put him behind 5-3.

The Chilean tossed his racket in disgust after Roddick's crosscourt forehand was called wide, then overruled, to make the score 15-30. "Hans, please," Maria said as Gildemeister fumed at the foot of the chair.

Two points later, a passing shot by Roddick that looked clearly wide on replays was called good. Gonzalez walked over to the line official and held his hands up in mock supplication, then stalked back and forth just in front of her, his face stony with anger. He struck a forehand long on break point, and the tenor of the match was altered for good.

Despite Gonzalez's antics during the match, he was gracious afterwards, saying he was beaten by a great player with better legs.

"I couldn't hold that level for four sets," Gonzalez said. "He has good defense. Maybe you can't see it, because his serve is the best in the world."

Gildemeister added, "I think Fernando made Roddick play his best tennis of the year."

Roddick mashed his usual share of aces -- 14 -- but was especially happy with another line on the stat sheet. He had 50 winners and only 17 unforced errors.

"Plus-33 is a lot better than I've been this year," he said.

Gildemeister substituted 23-year-old, 103rd-ranked Paul Capdeville for Chile's second singles player, Nicolas Massu, in the meaningless fifth match. Capdeville proceeded to mow down No. 8 James Blake -- who's not nearly as comfortable on grass as his teammates -- in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4.

"Even though individually I didn't have the best of weekends, I consider this week a 100 percent total and complete success," Blake said of the team's win.

Both he and Roddick said they expect Russia to choose clay for their matchup. "We're ready to play any country in the world," Blake said.

Freelance writer Bonnie DeSimone is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

ALSO SEE