Andy Roddick's late tactical switch paid off as the No 1 seed survived a close quarterfinal against Xavier Malisse on Friday at the Atlanta Championships.
With the match locked at 4-4 in the deciding third set, Roddick elected to drop deeper behind the baseline to return the Belgian's serve. He was rewarded with a break and he then served it out to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
"I wasn't returning well close in," Roddick said. "I just didn't have my timing or whatever. He missed eight of his first nine serves when I stood back and did that.
"He was in a pretty decent groove on first serves in the third set. He was hitting his spots. He has a good serve, but he doesn't normally pop aces, you know? I gave him a different look."
Roddick set up a semifinal against sixth-seeded Mardy Fish, who cruised past fellow American Taylor Dent 6-3, 6-0. Fish is targetting back-to-back titles after winning on grass a fortnight earlier in Newport, Rhode Island.
A third American, John Isner, also progressed to the semfinals, quickly escaping the breathless heat by beating Michael Russell 6-1, 6-2 in less than an hour.
Isner's semifinal opponent will be South Africa's Kevin Anderson, who defeat Slovakia's Lukas Lacko 6-3, 6-4.
Roddick improved to 9-0 on the ATP tour against Malisse, but he struggled in the first set with two double-faults and had problems throughout the match in earning just six of 38 first-return points.
However Roddick, the tour leader this year with a 28-4 record on hard courts, never lost the power of his serve and finished with 17 aces.
Malisse, the seventh seed, wasn't upset that many fans cheered after he hit errant shots.
"It's nice to have a crowd, at least," Malisse said. "Even if it's against me, it doesn't really bother me. They were really respectful."
Isner, who rose to tennis fame with a record-long match at Wimbledon, showed why he's one of the ATP tour's service leaders with 11 aces and an 89 percentage on first serves.
A brief match was exactly what he needed after laboring for more than 2-1/2 hours in the Atlanta heat against Gilles Muller on Wednesday.