Thursday, December 18
Roddick still unchallenged

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Mal's Picks
MaliVai Washington
Former ATP Tour pro MaliVai Washington is providing with in-depth analysis during the U.S. Open. Washington, a tennis analyst for ESPN, reached the 1996 Wimbledon final.

Wouldn't it be interesting if the U.S. Open came down to two Americans as it did last year. Then, it was two elder statesmen. This one has the potential to be the young guard against the old guard.

But maybe the bigger battle is in the fight for No. 1. Andre Agassi and Juan Carlos Ferrero have won a major, and Roddick is playing the best tennis of his career seeking his first major. This tournament might very well decide who ends the year No. 1.

Andre Agassi (1), United States, vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero (3), Spain
One of the things about Agassi throughout his career is his ability to rise to the occasion in big matches, and he has done it time and time again at the U.S. Open. As he gets toward the end of his career, occasions like this are going to be fewer and fewer. He'll cherish more matches like this than he cherished his first semifinal at the Open in 1990.

My gut tells me that picking Agassi on Arthur Ashe Stadium court in the semifinals of his home Grand Slam is the smart choice, but I just have this inkling that it might be time for Ferrero to prove himself at a major other than the French Open. This match could be the matchup of the tournament and unfortunately it's going to happen in the semifinal.
Pick: Ferrero in five

Andy Roddick (4), United States vs. David Nalbandian (13), Argentina
At the beginning of the tournament, I said Roddick was the favorite. That should hold true in his semifinal with David Nalbandian. Every challenge Roddick has faced, he has come through with flying colors. He should have had a much tougher challenge than he did against Sjeng Schalken. Instead, Roddick won in straight sets.

Nalbandian kept his head together after beating Roger Federer. Sometimes a player can come out and have a bit of a letdown after a big win. Instead, Nalbandian overcame Younes El Aynaoui when much of the crowd was for the Morrocan. Nalbandian showed a lot of heart.

He'll pose a challenge Roddick hasn't faced in this tournament. The key for Roddick is in his serve -- and in winning the majority of the points from the baseline. No player Roddick has faced so far has Nalbandian's groundstrokes. Also, Nalbandian has the ability to control points from the baseline, and that will be the difference.
Roddick in five