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Collision course? Roddick, Federer advance

6/30/2004

WIMBLEDON, England -- Andy Roddick was flat on his stomach
at the baseline, not a particularly good place to be during a
tiebreaker point at Wimbledon.

Down but not out, Roddick popped up, managing to reach the ball
just in time to slice a forehand. It wasn't pretty, but it kept the
rally going, and his opponent helped by flubbing a backhand into
the net.

Roddick gets plenty of attention for his serves, and they
certainly helped him out of jams Wednesday against No. 12 Sjeng
Schalken, including one at a Wimbledon-record 146 mph.

What's new is that the U.S. Open champion is developing into a
complete player, full of grit and guile, and he showed it in a 7-6
(4), 7-6 (9), 6-3 victory that put him in the semifinals for a
second consecutive year.

"It's just a matter of experiences," Roddick said. "I've been
in a lot more pressure situations, and I think that helps."

He'll have an edge in that department Saturday when he faces
63rd-ranked Mario Ancic of Croatia. Goran Ivanisevic's protege beat
No. 5 Tim Henman's 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2, ending local fans' hopes for
Britain's first men's champion since 1936.

"It's a tough one to swallow," said Henman, 29. "I've never
hidden behind the fact that this is the tournament I'd love to win
the most. And the reality is that I don't have an endless number of
years for chances."

Ancic might be only 20, and he's past the fourth round at a
Grand Slam tournament for the first time, but he shouldn't be taken
lightly. After all, he's the last player to beat Roger Federer at
the All England Club, shocking him in the first round in 2002.

That also was Federer's last loss on grass, anywhere. He
stretched his winning run on the surface to 22 matches by
eliminating his predecessor as Wimbledon champion, No. 7 Lleyton
Hewitt, 6-1, 6-7 (1), 6-0, 6-4.

"The way it's going, I don't have any reason to be too
nervous," said Federer, whose semifinal foe is No. 10 Sebastien
Grosjean, a 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 winner over 66th-ranked Florian Mayer of
Germany.

Federer's won 12 Wimbledon matches in a row, while Serena
Williams is at 19 after overwhelming Jennifer Capriati 6-1, 6-1 to
set up a semifinal against No. 4 Amelie Mauresmo. Mauresmo beat No.
14 Paola Suarez 6-0, 5-7, 6-1. The other women's semifinal Thursday
is Lindsay Davenport vs. 17-year-old Maria Sharapova.

"I hope I can feel that this is always a place that I'll be
able to dominate," said Williams, the two-time defending champion.

Before Wednesday, the top-ranked Federer hadn't lost a set and --
more impressively -- hadn't been broken.

An uncharacteristic string of three straight forehand errors by
Federer helped Hewitt win the second-set tiebreaker. And two more
mistakes on that wing allowed Hewitt, a former No. 1 who won the
2001 U.S. Open, to convert his ninth break point of the
rain-interrupted match for a 4-3 edge in the fourth set.

Until then, Federer won all 70 of his service games during the
tournament; he had won 105 straight at Wimbledon dating to the 2003
quarterfinals. Showing resolve, Federer won the next three games
against Hewitt to end the match

The last player to break Federer at the All England Club?
Schalken, who put Roddick in some tough situations Wednesday,
including a 2-0 lead in the opening tiebreaker. That's when Roddick
seemed headed for a 3-0 deficit, face-down on the slippery turf.

"I got a lucky break," the second-seeded Roddick said. "But I
guess those are the breaks you get sometimes when you hustle."

He later hit service winners at 132 mph and 129 mph to get set
points, and ended the tiebreaker with a nifty down-the-line
backhand that Schalken volleyed into the net.

Roddick, who hit 18 aces, showed patience during long exchanges
against Schalken that gave the match the feel of an encounter on a
slower surface.

"He doesn't have a weakness, I think," Schalken said.

In the second set, there was a bit of a flashback to Venus
Williams' second-round loss, in which the chair umpire lost track
of the score and gave Karolina Sprem an extra point. When Roddick
held serve to get to 5-5, chair umpire Gerry Armstrong announced,
"Six games all: second-set tiebreak."

Order was quickly restored this time, though, and play proceeded
properly, with Schalken serving. That next game was fractured by
the first of two rain delays, but they eventually did make it to
another tiebreaker.

This time, Roddick had to save three set points. At 6-5, his
powerful shot forced a forehand error by Schalken. At 7-6, Roddick
hit a 123 mph service winner, then grabbed a set point of his own
with a 146 mph service winner. Schalken saved that to get to 8-8
but his last set point, at 9-8, was wiped out by Roddick's forehand
winner.

Roddick won the next two points, too, for a two-set lead -- he is
5-0 in tiebreakers and hasn't lost a set -- then had one more
difficult patch.

He faced three break points in the third set's opening game, and
dealt with them this way: 134 mph ace, 135 mph second-serve ace
(that's right, a second serve at that speed!), and a 130 mph second
serve that Schalken put in play, only to lose a rally by pushing a
backhand into the net.

In truth, there was one other tough moment for Roddick: On match
point, his attempt at a Pete Sampras imitation nearly turned into a
pratfall. Roddick leaped to hit a weak, floating lob --
scissor-kicking the way seven-time Wimbledon champion Sampras used
to -- and mistimed it, awkwardly swatting the ball. It did land in,
though, ending the match, and Roddick landed slightly off-balance,
looking a bit sheepish.

"I was too excited," said Roddick, who lost to Federer in last
year's semifinals. "I'm looking just to finish it off. I got up
way too early, so I couldn't really take a full swing at it."