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Published: Thursday, 7/2/2009

Roddick gains Wimbledon semifinal berth

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WIMBLEDON, England - This one meant so much to Andy Roddick.

Because of the stakes - a return to Wimbledon's semifinals. Because of the opponent - 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt. And because of the circumstances - a five-set grind that began under a bright sun and concluded in shadows, 3 hours, 50 minutes later.

When it was over, having finally figured out a way to get past Hewitt 6-3, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4, Roddick let out a sigh and raised a fist, then threw his racket down, sat in his changeover chair, and covered his face with his hands.

"A mixture of happiness, of relief. In your mind, you're kind of trying to stay the course for four hours, constantly figuring out what you're going to do," said Roddick, who swatted 43 aces in yesterday's quarterfinals at the All England Club. "Your mind is just racing."

He hadn't been to the final four at Wimbledon since 2005; he even lost in the second round a year ago. He hadn't won a five-setter at any Grand Slam tournament in 2 1/2 years. But Roddick came through in the crunch, saving three break points while trailing 2-1 in the fifth set, before earning the decisive break in a 14-point game to go ahead 5-4.

"It's going to pay big dividends, winning a tight match like this," said Roddick's coach, Larry Stefanki. "He hasn't done that in a long time."

Roddick-Hewitt was the only quarterfinal pitting two men who have been ranked No. 1 and the only one involving two men who have won a major championship.

It also was the most riveting contest, not to mention the longest.

"It certainly wasn't short on drama," Roddick said. "It was tough from a mental standpoint, because Lleyton wasn't going away, and there were kind of a lot of ebbs and flows."

Next up for the No. 6-seeded Roddick is a semifinal against No. 3 Andy Murray, who beat 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 6-3, 6-2. Murray is trying to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, so he will be backed by quite a crowd.

"We might be able to count the people for me on this hand," Roddick said, raising his right hand. "I'm just going to pretend when they say, 'Come on, Andy!' that they mean me."

The other semifinal tomorrow is No. 2 Roger Federer against No. 24 Tommy Haas. It's a rematch of a June 1 French Open fourth-round match in which Haas took the first two sets and was five points away from winning before Federer won en route to claiming his first title at Roland Garros.

That gave Federer his 14th Grand Slam championship, tying Pete Sampras' career record. He can surpass that mark here.

"It would be writing in the history books of tennis," Federer said, then cautioned: "It's not there yet. Still far away. Many points, many serves, many forehands."

Seeking a sixth Wimbledon title, he beat No. 22 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (3). Haas knocked off No. 4 Novak Djokovic of Serbia 7-5, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-3.

Federer completely took the sting out of the intimidating serves of the 6-foot-10 Karlovic, who had won 79 of 79 service games through more than nine hours of play across his first four matches at Wimbledon - and 128 of 128 service games if you add in his previous tournament too.

So wouldn't you know it. Federer needed all of eight minutes and two Karlovic service games to break the big fella.

Federer hit three return winners, including a forehand off a 122-mph serve on break point, to take a 3-1 lead. That set the tone.

Karlovic, best known for upsetting defending champion Hewitt at Wimbledon in the first round in 2003, was asked why Federer dealt with his serve better than other players do.

"Oh, it is only because he is better than everybody else," Karlovic said. "That's it."

Federer outperformed Karlovic by winning 74 of 85 points in his own service games. Only once did Karlovic so much as get to deuce on Federer's serve, midway through the third set, and the Swiss star responded with a service winner at 129 mph and an ace at 128 mph.

Take aces out of the equation - Karlovic led 23-7 in that category - and Federer wound up with a 32-6 advantage in other winners as he reached the semifinals at a 21st Grand Slam tournament in a row, extending his own record. No one else in tennis history ever made it to more than 10 consecutive major semifinals.

"It's hard to believe I achieved it, because looking back, it's not just I'm looking back on a few weeks or a month or a year or so. It's really way back," said Federer, who last exited a tournament before this stage at the 2004 French Open. "Quite a streak."

AMERICAN JUNIORS: Unseeded Alex Domijan of Wesley Chapel, Fla., upset No. 1 Daniel Berta of Sweden 6-3, 6-3 in the junior tournament to join two other Americans in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, Domijan will play Devin Britton, who won an NCAA title for the Mississippi in May. Qualifier Jordan Cox, of Duluth, Ga., also advanced after beating Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus 7-6 (3), 6-3.

MISSING MISS: The traditional use of the prefix "Miss" or "Mrs." before women's names on the Wimbledon scoreboards has been scrapped this year.

Wimbledon organizers decided to put the full name of female players on the scoreboards - like they do with the men - in yet another step by the All England Club to modernize the tournament.



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