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Roddick rolls back the years to stun Murray

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:37

The dream is over. It may not have been his dream – at least he wouldn’t admit it – but Andy Murray’s seemingly pre-destined procession to the Wimbledon title fell at the penultimate hurdle at the hands of two-time finalist Andy Roddick.

The American produced a superb all-round display to beat the world No.3 6-4 4-6 7-6(7) 7-6(5), often beating Murray at his own game. The gameplan was clear – target Murray’s backhand, mix up the pace and length, but perhaps the most impressive aspect of Roddick’s game was his volleying.

The world No.6’s movement was back to his 2003 best, cutting off Murray’s efforts to send Roddick scrambling around the court. Instead, it was the American who had Murray on the run, gelling his powerful forehand with great patience on the backhand, and returning as well as at any point during his career.

He was anything but a blunt serving machine against Murray, but the American’s arm was, to coin his own phrase, ‘live’. The speed gun clocked 143mph, and Roddick landing 75% of his first serves meant Murray was unable to make his famed returning prowess count.

In contrast the Scot couldn’t buy a first serve when it mattered, particularly during the first set. His court craft kept him in touching distance, until Roddick produced a magic game ten.

At 30-30, he beat Murray at his own game, pushing him deeper and more off-balance before a drop shot finished the job. It brought up the first and only break point of the first set for either player, taken when Murray netted a forehand.

But while the first set was sealed in the final game, the second was decided in the first. Murray provided the perfect riposte, claiming eight of the first nine points of the set, with two consecutive aces sealing a 2-0 lead. The American was left shaking his head in disbelief as everything the Scot touched turned to gold, but it was to be the only break of another cagey set.

History looked set to repeat itself at the start of the third when Murray reached 0-40 in the opening game once more, but Roddick regrouped and held, twice coming to the net to save break points, the last held with a mishit drop volley.

Three games later, and it was Murray’s turn to face break points. Roddick reached 15-40 as he punished the Scot’s tame second serve once more. Murray recovered to deuce, but couldn’t prevent Roddick from breaking at the fourth time of asking when he bunted a forehand long.

Murray’s mood wasn’t helped by an undeserved obscenity warning from the umpire in the next game, but he did managed to claw back the break with Roddick serving for the set.

The Centre Court crowd roared their approval and chants of ‘Murray, Murray, Murray’ brought back memories of his five-set victory on Monday against Stanislas Wawrinka. Sadly it was not to be another five set victory for the British No.1.

The third went to a tie-break – Roddick’s forte in recent weeks. And the American went all out to mix up his game and take time away from the Scot, rushing the net a total of eight times in the 16-point breaker before sealing it 9-7.

Demoralised and demure, Murray rediscovered some form on serve to comfortably match Roddick game for game in the fourth, and even briefly saw a break point in game eight. But it was the last chance Murray made for himself.

Another tie-break, but this time Roddick was not hanging about. Four service winners and a poorly netted routine backhand from Murray gave him a 5-2 lead, and although Murray saved a match point at 6-4, it merely delayed the inevitable, fittingly finished when Murray netted a running backhand pass from deep.

The No.6 seed sank to his knees as he celebrated reaching his first Grand Slam final since 2006. He now faces the man who beat him in his two previous Wimbledon finals, Roger Federer, on Sunday.

“I thought I played well,” said Murray. “I hit more winners than him, less unforced errors, more aces, it just came down to a few points here and there. It came down to his serve and he served very, very well. There’s not a whole lot you can do. I definitely didn’t play a bad match.”

Roddick was magnanimous in victory. “I had to play my best tennis to win,” he said afterwards. “I can’t say enough good things about Andy’s game. But I can play some tennis sometimes. Not many people were giving me much of a chance, but I knew if I could stay the course, I had a chance.

“He had a lot of pressure on him, and I could come out and swing, and I think that helped,” he added. “He’s been a much better player than I have over the last year – I was just a little bit better today.”

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