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Federer and Djoker complete semis line-up

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 14:50

It could have been two tales straight out of Hollywood Gilles Muller vs Roger Federer for the romantic giant-killer fans, and local hero Andy Roddick producing an almighty comeback from the brink.

But this is New York, not Vaudeville, and the stories tend to be a bit grittier on the East Coast, as it proved at Flushing Meadows on Thursday.

First up, David vs Goliath or not, depending on your point of view. There was a time when Roger Federer was so dominant that against even the top players it was almost a given that he would progress.

This is New York, not Vaudeville…

Thats not the case in 2008, and as if to accentuate the point Federer went up against Muller, the qualifier on a dream run, showing flashes of his old self but still looking rusty and vulnerable, ultimately winning 7-6(5) 6-4 7-6(5).

Federer, bidding to become the first man since Bill Tilden in 1924 to win five straight US Championships, made only 19 unforced errors in the match, but could only convert one of his 11 break point chances.

I’m happy to keep the semifinal streak alive, you know, Federer said after the match. I hope this time around I can take it a step further than I did in Paris or Wimbledon.

The match, and the crowd, came to life at 4-4 in the first set tiebreak after the 12 previous games went with serve. Fed looked to be caught out of position after running around a backhand, but, forced to hit the ball on the volley, rifled an impromptu drive from the baseline at a stunned Muller.

On the next point, after a long rally featuring the full range of his game including a squash-like sidespin forehand to retrieve a wide forehand and a topspin lob that forced an attack-minded Muller back, Federer hit a backhand passing shot up the line that left Muller flat on his back. Federer went on to take the tiebreak 7-5.

A lot of people think I should be happy with how I did, but actually Im disappointed, said Muller afterwards. I had my chances in this match, and I didnt take them. The Luxembourg qualifier had a point, and could have had a set.

Federer broke at 4-4 in the second to gain the advantage, but the players held serve through the third set to reach a second tiebreak. Muller went 4-1 up with two forehand winners.

From two sets down, Roddick was serving to level the match: then the wheels fell off…

But serving at 5-3, he didn’t attack off his first serve, a tentative move for a man whose gung-ho play had carried him so far in the tournament, including his victory over No.5 seed Nicolay Davydenko. Federer took advantage, forcing a forehand error in the rally, and then never looked back, taking the last four points of the breaker and the match.

Could Disney fans hope to salvage anything from the days action? Well, they could have, but Andy Roddick couldnt produce when it mattered.

It was the classic comeback tale: local hero loses the first two sets, then wins the last three to send the crowd into a frenzy. Then, deep in the fourth set and leading 5-4, Andy Roddick was serving to level the match: 142 mph ace, 15-love.143 mph serve, 30-love. And then the wheels fell off.

There was little to suggest that a worryingly passive Roddick could come back from two sets down, or that Djokovic would let up. But the American started producing much more aggressive tennis in the third.

In the first two sets, Roddick camped out well behind the baseline, with Djokovic dictating play. Now he was going for his shots, hitting powerful forehands and confident backhands, and his serve re-emerged as an effective weapon.

One poor Djokovic service game early in the third set was enough. Roddick took full advantage of his maiden break he held serve the rest of way to win the set 6-3.

The fourth set appeared to be a mirror image of the third when Roddick broke Djokovic in the seventh game to grab a 4-3 lead. When Roddick consolidated the break with a hold in the next game, the capacity crowd came alive. A once-improbable fifth set was one Roddick service hold away from happening.

Then at 5-4 30-love, Roddick double-faulted twice. Then Djokovic had break point. And when the Serb lobbed Roddick at net, the set was tied at 5-5. Cue the tiebreak. Cue the disappointment.

It was very close, said Djokovic afterwards. I mean, he was serving 5-4 and 30-love, and plus staying on the better side on the court, so I really didn’t think I would get myself out of that position, but, you know, obviously I played well.

Roddick touched upon two main points in the post-match press-conference. First were the double-faults. I’ve been playing pretty high-risk, high-reward tennis and I probably wasn’t about to stop, said Roddick. Given the choice again, I’d probably go for them, you know. That’s what got me back in the match.

Second, Roddick responded to Djokovics on-court interview comments. The Serb shot back at Roddicks accusations that Djokovic was too injury-prone. I’m sorry he took it that way, said Roddick.

There’s nothing else to say. I don’t think I was over the line. It wasn’t my intention, and, you know, I’m sorry he felt that way. Maybe I did him a favour tonight.

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