Roddick heroics sets up Ferrero final clash
Andy Roddick hauled himself into his first ever grand slam final with the sort of inspired comeback that had earlier proved beyond an ageing Andre Agassi in the semi-finals of the US Open on Saturday.india Updated: Sep 07, 2003 12:11 IST
Andy Roddick hauled himself into his first ever grand slam final with the sort of inspired comeback that had earlier proved beyond an ageing Andre Agassi in the semi-finals of the US Open on Saturday.
American top seed Agassi, the winner of eight majors in a glittering career, tried in vain to retrieve a two-set deficit against third seed Juan Carlos Ferrero before going down 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-4 to the Spaniard.
Later in the day, the future of American tennis announced its timely arrival with Roddick's 6-7 3-6 7-6 6-1 6-3 triumph over gutsy Argentine David Nalbandian.
Roddick, whose 38 aces on Saturday was his highest ever return in a match, was forced to save one match point before prevailing in front of a partisan Flushing Meadows crowd happy to gorge on three hours 31 minutes of theatre.
The outcome ensured there would be at least one home player in the men's or women's final for the 15th year running.
Yet Sunday's final match-up will be the first time ever Roddick and Ferrero have faced each other in a professional match.
Ferrero's success not only gave the French Open champion his third career grand final, but wrested the number one world ranking from 33-year-old Agassi.
Roddick's own heroics were no less significant, for they helped ease the 21-year-old's memories of failing in the last four at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon earlier in 2003.
Boasting a 17-match winning streak ahead of his clash with Nalbandian, Roddick was heavily favoured to emerge.
He had also spent just nine hours, 56 minutes on court on his way to the semi-finals, compared to Nalbandian's 15 hours two minute workload.
Moreover, because of rain delays this week, the 13th seed had been forced to play back-to-back on Thursday and Friday, while Roddick had enjoyed a rest day on Thursday.
But as Nalbandian overcame a wrist injury to establish a two set lead, it appeared as though an agitated Roddick was buckling under the pressure of expectation.
Either side of a medical time out for blisters on his foot, he slammed a ball into the stands in frustration and ordered the chair umpire to "step up" in a remarkable outburst.
Nalbandian, however, still worked him around like a puppet on a string from the baseline and at 6-5 in the third set tiebreak, the 2002 Wimbledon runner-up was one point away from his second career slam final.
Suddenly Roddick stirred, blasting a service winner followed by an ace before claiming the breaker 9-7.
His intensity and the crowd's interest aroused, Roddick secured the fourth set in 24 minutes and went toe-to-toe with a wearying Nalbandian until 4-3 in the decider.
Then, at 15-40 in the eighth game, Nalbandian thought he had redeemed himself with a backhand pass -- but the ball was agonisingly called out and Roddick had a priceless break.
He made no mistake serving out for the match, doubling over more in relief than joy when Nalbandian strayed wide on his first match point.
An aggrieved Nalbandian could not resist a dig at perceived home bias from officials.
"I'm a little angry (at the calls)," he said.
"You have to fight against everything ... Every time it is close, everything is for them."
Ferrero's performance of blood-thirsty power brooked no argument, and left the New York crowd shaking their heads in awe at the 23-year-old.
He dedicates his finest moments in tennis to Rosario, the mother he lost when he was 17.
On Saturday his eyes lingered on the heavens as he knelt on the court when Agassi fired long on the first match point.
"I worked hard to become number one ... For me it is the first time and it is wonderful," said Ferrero, who is bidding to become the first Spaniard since Manuel Orantes in 1975 to win the U.S. Open.
Agassi said: "He was just taking care of his business better than I was. It was just too big a hill for me to climb.
"But I won't make any decisions on my future from an emotional standpoint. Something drastic would have to change drastically for me not to be back."
First Published: Sep 07, 2003 12:11 IST