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Roddick buoyed by 5-set victory



Published: Thu, June 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



He's two victories away from his first Wimbledon championship.

THE WASHINGTON POST

WIMBLEDON, England -- Andy Roddick's three tournament victories this season ought to suggest that he's finally on his way to fulfilling the promise and unloading the burden of having been labeled the next great tennis player.

But as Roddick well knows, he can hoist all the trophies at pro stops in Houston, San Jose and West London's Queen's Club that he likes, but it won't come close to conferring the legitimacy of one Wimbledon championship.

Roddick moved a step closer to that longed-for achievement Wednesday, becoming the last man to advance to Wimbledon's semifinals with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory over his friend and frequent sparring partner, Sebastien Grosjean of France.

Up next is Thomas Johansson, 30, a Swede with a well-rounded game who last made headlines by winning the 2002 Australian Open.

Should Roddick prevail in their semifinal Friday, he'll compete for Wimbledon's title for a second consecutive year Sunday, facing one of the two players he respects most: world No. 1 Roger Federer, who drew on his rarely needed defensive skills to dismiss Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2); or second-ranked Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, who ousted Spain's Feliciano Lopez with similar ease, 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).

Top pairings

To the delight of tennis fans, Wednesday's results placed Wimbledon's top three seeds in the semifinals.

And all four semifinalists know what it takes to win a Grand Slam. Federer, Wimbledon's two-time and defending champion, has four titles; Roddick, Hewitt and Johansson have one apiece.

Of the bunch, Roddick, 22, was the only player pushed beyond three sets.

But rather than jarring his confidence, the five-set battle with Grosjean appeared to buoy Roddick, who arrived at Wimbledon having lost his last five five-set matches.

He ended that dismal streak in the second round, presented with a spirited challenge by Italian qualifier Daniele Bracciali.

After dispatching Grosjean in 2 hours 45 minutes Wednesday, Roddick was particularly pleased he had managed to keep an even keel as his fortunes ebbed and flowed against the Frenchman, who deftly varied his pace against the hard-slugging American.

"There was a lot more heat on me coming into this tournament," said Roddick, who hasn't advanced to a Grand Slam final since losing to Federer last year at Wimbledon.

"I wanted to prove that I'm still a pretty good tennis player. I'm not gone," Roddick said.

Point to prove

Hewitt has his own point to prove at Wimbledon, having been seeded third in the tournament he won in 2002 rather than second, as his No. 2 world ranking would suggest.

According to Wimbledon's rulebook, the "Order of Play" committee can stray from the rankings in seeding players if it feels the evidence warrants.

In Hewitt's case, the panel dropped him to third because he was sidelined three months this spring after breaking two ribs in a fall at home.

Roddick, ranked fourth, was installed as the second seed (leap-frogging Hewitt and third-ranked Rafael Nadal, who is regarded as a clay-court specialist) partly in deference to his status as Wimbledon's 2004 runner-up.

Until Wednesday, Hewitt had sidestepped questions about the seeding, preferring to convey his unhappiness through gritted teeth.

But after his straight-sets victory over Lopez, which propels him into the more difficult of Friday's semifinals (against Federer), Hewitt observed: "It's a strange situation. I don't know how many times it would have happened that the top two ranked players would be playing in a semifinal in a Slam."




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