Federer seeks third threepeat of Open Era

9/8/2006 - Tennis


By Matt Wilansky, ESPN.com
No. 1 Roger Federer vs. No. 7 Nikolay Davydenko
Make that 10 consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearances now for Federer after his four-set win over James Blake. That ties Ivan Lendl's Open Era record for consecutive semifinal appearances reached in majors.

Although the No. 1 player in the world has seen some of his mind-boggling streaks come to an end this year, such as 17 consecutive finals reached and a 55-match win streak in North America, he was able to add to his dominance over American players. With his win over Blake, Federer has now won 27 straight matches over Americans, a streak that began after a semifinal loss to Roddick at Montreal in 2003.

Federer is now two wins away from becoming the first player since Ivan Lendl in 1987 to collect three consecutive U.S. Open titles. More impressively, the Swiss could become the first player in history to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open back-to-back in three consecutive years.

His opponent will be Davydenko, who had to work hard to reach his second career Grand Slam semifinal. After handing his quarterfinal opponent Tommy Haas a two-set lead, the Russian fought his way back, eventually winning 6-4 in the fifth.

Now Davydenko will once again try to reach his first career major final. At Roland Garros last season, he reached the semis before Mariano Puerta upended him in the fifth set.

Roger FedererBill Kostroun/AP PhotoFederer is two wins away from his ninth Grand Slam title since 2003.

For just the second time in the Open Era, two Russian men have reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament. In 2001, Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov accomplished this feat at the U.S. Open, but both lost. If both Mikhail Youzhny and Davydenko win in the semis, it would mark just the third time -- for men and women -- that Russian opponents have met in a Grand Slam final. In 2004, Elena Dementieva lost in the French Open and U.S. Open finals, to countrywomen Anastasia Myskina and Svetlana Kuznetsova, respectively.

Davydenko and Federer have met seven times and it has been a one-sided affair. Federer has won each match, including a four-set win this season at the Australian Open.

No. 9 Andy Roddick vs. Mikhail Youzhny
It's safe to say that Roddick's 2006 struggles are over. After a convincing win over longtime nemesis Lleyton Hewitt, Roddick appears to be closer to the 2003 form that saw him capture the U.S. Open and end the year ranked No. 1 in the world.

Despite a third-round letdown vs. No. 22 Fernando Verdasco when Roddick had to go five sets, his game has been nearly flawless. In Wednesday night's quarterfinal against Hewitt, the American fired 17 aces and converted 72 percent of his first serves. As a matter of fact, for the tournament, he has made 72 percent of his first serves, far and away the best of the remaining players.

The 2006 version of Roddick has shown that he has gotten over his seasonlong struggles, perhaps a sign of his maturation. Instead of continually hitting serves reaching 140 mph, he has changed up the speed and spin. "I think the most effective thing is I'm mixing it up, and then, you know, I think by throwing in some off-pace stuff, it makes my big one look maybe a little bit faster," he told reporters.

With his quarterfinal win, Roddick reached the U.S. Open semis for the first time since his title in 2003. Furthermore, the No. 9 seed snapped his drought of five consecutive Grand Slam appearances without reaching the last four at a major.

Andy RoddickBill Kostroun/AP PhotoAndy Roddick and Roger Federer have combined to win the last three U.S. Opens.

Roddick might have caught a break when Youzhny issued the upset of this fortnight, knocking off No. 2 Rafael Nadal, but the American knows his unseeded opponent in the semifinals will be no easy task. Youzhny has unquestionably played the most impressive tennis of his career at the U.S. Open. Said Roddick, "Hopefully I'll be able to make him play a little bit more defense than he's had to play against [David] Ferrer, [Tommy] Robredo and Nadal. I think he's been getting pretty good looks at taking swings at the ball. Hopefully I can affect his rhythm a little bit."

Before this year's U.S. Open, Youzhny had never advanced past the fourth round of any Grand Slam event. Many wondered what the 54th-ranked player in the world could do after handing Robredo, the No. 6 seed, the most lopsided loss of the tournament.

His encore was stunning, to say the least: A win over No. 2 Nadal. "Yeah, I think it was one of the best matches in my career now," Youzhny told reporters. "I understand I have only one chance to beat Raffa, if I play together with my head."

Youzhny has now won consecutive matches against top-10 opponents after dropping 10 straight. He's well aware it will take a special effort to get by the red-hot Roddick. The Russian will have to win his fifth straight match on hard courts, something he has never done in his career.

Roddick and Youzhny have met four times, splitting their series. Roddick though, has won the past two.