US Open Ambience

US Open Livestream Preview: Roddick v Nalbandian, semi-final 2003

In lieu of much live tennis to watch at the moment, the US Open have begun sharing classic, full-length matches on their Facebook and YouTube channels. This Saturday, June 13th, at 9pm (BST) they are premiering the 2003 semi-final between Andy Roddick and David Nalbandian. Here we take a look at the build up to that match and see exactly what was at stake.

The pair began the 2003 season in very similar positions. They were both just 20 years old and touted as two of the game’s brightest future talents. Roddick was ranked 10th in the world and Nalbandian was only a little way behind in 12th. Roddick had more titles, with four to his name, whilst Nalbandian had just the two, but the Argentinian also had a Grand Slam final appearance under his belt, having fallen to Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon, whereas Roddick was yet to progress past the quarter-finals. That would soon change.

At the start of 2003 Roddick reached his first Grand Slam semi-final, losing disappointingly to Rainer Schüttler, but this came after a gruelling quarter-final win over Younes El Aynaouí that ended 21-19 in the fifth. Schüttler, prior to defeating Roddick, also beat Nalbandian in the quarters, but again this came after a tough five setter for Nalbandian who beat Federer in five sets in round four.

Roddick would continue to have a strong year, finishing runner up in Memphis and Houston before picking up titles in St. Pölten, Queen’s, Indianapolis, Montreal and Cincinnati. He also reached a second Grand Slam semi-final, losing his first of a number of memorable encounters with Roger Federer on the lawns of SW19.

Nalbandian, on the other hand, struggled to achieve the same heights. His first final of the year did not come until Montreal where he lost convincingly to Roddick, 6-1 6-3. The pair’s only other career meeting at this point had also come at the Canadian Masters event the previous year, where Roddick was again the victor in equally dominant fashion, 6-3 6-2.

Heading into New York, Roddick’s very impressive summer run had seen him take the position of 4th seed whilst Nalbandian had dropped slightly to 13th, although his run to the Montreal final suggested that he was finding his form just in time. Pete Sampras was the defending champion but he had since retired and the man that Sampras beat in 2002, Andre Agassi, was the top seed, in part due to winning Australia (his 8th Grand Slam title) earlier in the year. Federer, on the back of his first Wimbledon triumph, was the second seed.

Roddick, who turned 21 mid-tournament, had a fairly comfortable run through to his third Grand Slam semi-final of the year. In the opening four rounds he beat Henman, Ljubicic, Saretta and Malisse, all of whom were unseeded, and he then toppled 12th seed Sjeng Schalken in the quarter-finals, 6-4 6-2 6-3.

Nalbandian, whose 21st had come back in January, had the tougher path, having to down Kohlschreiber, Niemenen, Philippoussis (that year’s Wimbledon runner-up) and then in the fourth round, Federer (that year’s Wimbledon champion). The win gave Nalbandian a 5-0 head-to-head record over the Swiss and it was his second time defeating him at a Slam that year (also Australia). In the quarter-finals, Nalbandian beat El Aynaouí in four sets to set up the semi-final clash with Roddick.

At this time, the American crowds were no stranger to seeing homegrown heroes in the latter stages of the US Open. In fact, since 1990 there had only been two men’s singles finals that had not featured at least one American player and of the past ten finalists on the women’s side, eight had been American, with Martina Hingis filling in two runner-up spots. After his breakout summer, winning both Montreal and Cincinnati along the way, Roddick seemed like the hot favourite to continue his fine run of form. The young American had a 2-0 head-to-head record against his opponent, he had won five titles for the season compared to Nalbandian’s none, and he would have the crowd behind him… However, Roddick had barely been tested at this tournament so far and Nalbandian had had that confidence boosting win over Federer. Furthermore, Roddick had twice fallen at this stage of a major tournament already in 2003 whereas Nalbandian had proved the previous year that he could take it to the next step. Roddick had the in-form advantage, but Nalbandian had perhaps the mental advantage. Join us on Saturday at 9pm (BST) to relive all the action and see which would prove most valuable and which of these young talents would battle their way through to the final.


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.