Federer improves to 4-0 vs. Roddick to reach his first finalPosted: Friday July 04, 2003 9:32 AM
Updated: Saturday July 05, 2003 2:47 PM
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Andy Roddick's run at Wimbledon was stopped by the closest thing there is to Pete Sampras right now: Roger Federer.
With brilliant serving and returning, plus shotmaking so good even Roddick was moved to shout praise, Federer won their semifinal 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-3 Friday to become the first Swiss man to reach a Grand Slam title match.
"I don't know if I've been beaten that convincingly when I felt like I went into the match thinking, 'OK, I'm playing well,"' the fifth-seeded Roddick said. "I played not great, but by no means was it a bad match for me. He played very well."
In Sunday's final, No. 4 Federer will meet unseeded Mark Philippoussis, another player for whom the word "potential" sometimes has been an albatross. Philippoussis beat No. 13 Sebastien Grosjean 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-3.
The last time both men's semifinals lasted only three sets was in 1982, when the winners were a couple of guys named Connors and McEnroe.
"To raise my game like this for such a big match is incredible," Federer said.
He outaced Roddick 17-4, didn't double-fault and, remarkably, conjured 61 winners to 12 unforced errors. He serve-and-volleyed on a little more than half his serves, winning 71 percent of those points. And he confounded Roddick by returning serves that consistently came in at 130-to-137 mph.
Add it up, and it was the sort of dominating display of classic grass-court tennis against a top player that hadn't been seen around these parts since Sampras won his record-tying seventh Wimbledon title in 2000.
The next year, a 19-year-old Federer announced his promise by snapping Sampras' 31-match winning streak at the All England Club in a fourth-round shocker on Centre Court. But Federer failed to reach another major quarterfinal until now, losing in the first round three times, including at the French Open in May.
"I knew it was in me, but I didn't know what it takes, if it only needs time or if it needs work. People were saying too quickly: 'It's going to happen.' Especially after the Sampras match," said Federer, the 1998 Wimbledon junior champion.
"I'm happy to put all these kind of negative talkers -- that I don't perform well in Slams -- a little bit in the corner."
As well as Federer played, Roddick had the first chance to gain the upper hand, owning a set point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker.
He smacked a strong serve, Federer sliced a short return, and Roddick reared back for an inside-out forehand. But the ball slapped the net tape. "If I would have had about an inch more height on it, the set probably would have been over," Roddick said, a baseball cap pulled down over his eyes. "That's the shot I wanted. If I had to do it again, I'd go for it the exact same."
Federer went ahead 7-6 with a forehand winner and ended the set with a service winner. He faced two break points to open the second set, but erased one with a drop volley, then took care of the second and held serve with this sequence: 120 mph ace, 121 mph service winner, 118 mph ace.
And Federer broke in the next game. It closed with a superb point on which Roddick dove to his left for a volley, only to see Federer whip a forehand passing winner.
"The wheels just came off, and he started playing unbelievable," said Roddick, much more gracious in defeat than at times in the past.
Still only 20, he was in his second major semifinal of 2003 (Australian Open) and his career. He rebounded impressively from a first-round loss at the French Open, teaming with Andre Agassi's former coach, Brad Gilbert, to win a grass-court title at Queen's Club and displaying more maturity as a person and player at Wimbledon.
"This is exactly where he should be: in the thick of things," Gilbert said.
But Federer crammed a tournament's worth of pretty shots into one match, among them the cross-court forehand winner he half-volleyed to win a 16-stroke point that ended the second set.
As Roddick went to his chair, he exclaimed: "Too good!"
"I remember thinking to myself, 'I played a pretty good game to make him serve it out, and I lost it at love.' The last shot was just ridiculous," Roddick said. "I don't know if anybody else can do that shot."
As the match was dissected across the grounds, one name kept popping up: Sampras, who hasn't played a match this year and missed Wimbledon for the first time since 1988.
Asked if he's ever seen a young player as complete as Federer, Boris Becker said: "Well, compare him with a young Sampras: Maybe he doesn't have the speed on the serve yet, but the rest of the game is very much like Pete's game."
And Becker knows something about precociousness: In 1985, he won Wimbledon at 17. The only other unseeded champion since the tournament began seeding in 1927 was Goran Ivanisevic two years ago, and the 48th-ranked Philippoussis will try to be No. 3.
Like Federer, Philippoussis raised expectations with an upset of Sampras at 19, at the 1996 Australian Open.
He made his first Grand Slam final two years later, losing at the 1998 U.S. Open. But three left knee operations in 2000-01 halted his progress. Philippoussis worried he wouldn't be back, particularly when he spent two months getting around in a wheelchair.
"I've been through a lot," said Philippoussis, who won the last five points of his tiebreaker against Grosjean and broke to open the second set. "After that third surgery, I pretty much told myself never to look too far ahead."
How about a forecast for Sunday?
"Obviously, he's been playing some great tennis," Philippoussis said. "But I've been playing pretty good myself."