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Russian roulette for Federer and Roddick

Two unsung Russians stand in the way of a dream US Open final between Federer and Roddick.

india Updated: Sep 08, 2006 12:58 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Two unsung Russians stand in the way of a dream US Open final Sunday between top seed and defending champion Roger Federer and American flag-bearer Andy Roddick.

In Saturday's semi-finals, Federer will take on Nikolay Davydenko and Roddick goes up against Mikhail Youzhny.

On paper it looks clear-cut.

Federer, who lost his first set of the championship in his 7-6 (9/7), 6-0, 6-7 (9/11), 6-4 quarter-final win over another American James Blake is 7-0 going up against seventh seed Davydenko.

Roddick is 2-2 against unseeded Youzhny, but has won the last two and under the tutelage of American legend Jimmy Connors he is looking close to being back to the kind of form that made him world No.1 in November 2003.

But both said they would not be under-estimating their opponents.

Federer, aiming to become just the third man in the Open era after John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl to win a hat-trick of titles in New York, said that Davydenko was a deceptively tough prospect.

"Andy and I look like the big favourites but we've seen what happened to favourites in the past," he said.

"I've had some tough matches against Davydenko. He is playing excellent tennis and has improved a lot on hardcourts.

"He has found another gear. He is incredibly fit and has more self belief than he used to have.

"I will have to have great variety in my game and be aggressive."

Davydenko, who came through a gruelling five-setter against Germany's Tommy Haas to reach his second Grand Slam semi-final after the 2005 French Open recognized the enormity of the task before him.

"It's like everybody else. How do you play against Federer?," he asked with a shrug of his slim shoulders.

But the frail, balding Ukraine-born player said he takes confidence from the four-setter, including two tie-breaks, he played against the Swiss star in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January.

"It was a tough match, yeah? But I lost in the third and fourth sets tie-breaks. I had so many set points.

"If I am feeling well, have great feelings backhand, forehand, running good. You need to think you can beat him. What's important is what is in the head."

Roddick, who won through late Wednesday with a straight sets 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 trouncing of former champion Lleyton Hewitt, said that Youzhny had fully deserved his upset four-sets win over Rafael Nadal to make it through to the semis.

"He played a great match. He played flawlessly," he said.

"I don't think I'm going to give him as many balls to hit as Nadal. Hopefully I'll be able to make him play a little bit more defence than he had to play against Nadal."

The 24-year-old Youzhny is seen back home in Russia as a player who has so far failed to live up to his huge potential.

But against Nadal, he put aside all the self doubts that have beset him in the past to play the best match of his career.

In January, he was ranked a career-high No. 15, but as he has done in the past, he failed to keep up the level of his game. In a four-month span earlier this year, he lost 11 of 16 matches.

"I work very hard, end of last year and beginning of this year," he said. "Sometimes, I was just waiting [for] results, because I saw I played very well in practice. When I go play in matches, I cannot show my best tennis.

"I think after Hamburg [in May], I understand I cannot wait anymore for results. I need to do something for results to come to me."

Against the big-hitting Roddick he will need to do something else.



First Published: Sep 08, 2006 12:58 IST