Roddick ready to face Ferrero in men's final
Posted: Sunday September 7, 2003 1:05PM; Updated: Sunday September 7, 2003 1:05PM
FLUSHING, N.Y. (Ticker) -- Last year's U.S. Open final involved two great champions -- Americans Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Tabbed as their successor, Andy Roddick will try to make that prediction a reality Sunday against Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Roddick, the fourth seed, won the U.S. and Australian Open junior titles in 2000 without dropping a set and just began to make his mark on the ATP Tour. He won 10 career titles by the time he turned 21 last weekend and entered this tournament as the favorite after blossoming under the guidance of new coach Brad Gilbert.
The Nebraska native has won 18 straight matches -- dropping just six sets -- while capturing consecutive Tennis Masters Series events at Montreal and Cincinnati. He has lost only one of 27 matches since the start of the summer hardcourt circuit.
Roddick looked strong and efficient through the first five rounds here, getting to the semifinals while losing one set. But he had to rally from two sets down and saved a match point Saturday before defeating No. 13 David Nalbandian of Argentina, 6-7, 3-6, 7-6, 6-1, 6-3.
This is Roddick's first career Grand Slam final.
"I'm pumped," said Roddick, who is tied with Roger Federer for the ATP lead with five titles. "I mean, I came here so many times when I was younger. I can't believe I'm actually in a U.S. Open final. It would be great to go one step further."
Roddick is trying to join Stefan Edberg as the only players to win the boys' and men's singles titles here.
Ferrero also is an exceptional young player and he showed how brilliant he can be with a 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Agassi, the top seed and two-time champion. He snatched Agassi's No. 1 ranking and advanced to his third career Grand Slam final but first in New York.
The 23-year-old Spaniard also has won 10 titles, including his first major at the French Open in June. The last man to win at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open in the same year was Agassi in 1999.
Ferrero is hoping to become the first Spanish winner of the U.S. Open since Manuel Orantes in 1975. Manuel Santana also captured the U.S. Open crown, but he won on grass and Orantes on clay. Ferrero would be the first Spaniard to claim a major on hard courts.
"I feel so excited," he said. "I'm really happy for both things. You know, it's the first time I am in the final on the U.S. Open. I am playing a great tennis on hard courts. I couldn't play this kind of tennis in 2000, 2001 and 2002, I couldn't play so well here. Finally, I think I'm doing like I want."
While last year's final featured old rivals, this year's is the first between Ferrero and Roddick. One of the keys to the match will be how Ferrero handles Roddick's big serve, which produced a career-high 38 aces against Nalbandian - one of the tour's best returners.
"I know that if he serves so good, it's pretty difficult to break him," Ferrero said. "But also, [Martin] Verkerk in the French Open [final], he was serving [fast]. I did the breaks on the final."
Roddick will have to show more patience on the baseline, where Ferrero is the best in the world.
"If you could start the point off from the baseline, it would be a very one-sided match," Agassi predicted. "But, unfortunately, the serve is a monster factor. If you can't return serve, you can't win a match.
"Andy has that weapon in his arsenal. So if Andy has a great serving day, it's gonna be tough for anybody to beat him. But if he's a little off and Juan Carlos gets into some of the points, Andy's gonna feel him."
Roddick knows it won't be easy.
"I thought [Ferrero] played great against Andre," he said. "He probably doesn't get enough, not respect but enough play. I mean, people maybe don't realize what a good player he's become. He's won a Grand Slam. He's No. 1 now."
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