Sun, Jul 06, 2003 - Page 24 News List

Andy Roddick missed win by this much

NY TIMES NES SERVICE , WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND

Andy Roddick returns to Jonas Bjorkman in their quarter-final match at Wimbledon in London, on Thursday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Andy Roddick says he will not replay the point when it all went wrong on this Fourth of July in England. But the chances are that on subsequent holidays, on Thanksgiving morning or New Year's morning, Roddick will roll out of bed and see the ball hit the tape.

Splat! Just like that, his Wimbledon semifinal went spectacularly bad.

"I was just an inch away from winning the first set," Roddick allowed himself to say later.

Roddick was wiped out by Roger Federer from beginning to end, but somehow or other he had gotten up a point in the tiebreaker when he moved forward with the right side of the court open. Maybe there was too much court or too much time, but whatever the reason, Roddick whacked it into the tape. Was it technique or concentration?

"Just missed it," Roddick said. "Simple as that. If I would have had about an inch more height on it, it would have -- set probably would have been over. That's just the fine line."

The rest of it went fast. Roddick was whacked by Federer, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-3, to end his hopes for his first Grand Slam final, or better. Federer played so beautifully, with quick feet and unconscious shots and alert returns of serves, that Roddick could only smile at his friend during a changeover, and promise not to do anything rash when he departed the All England Club.

"Well, I'm not gonna go into depression about any tennis match, I'll tell you that right now," Roddick said, keeping it all in perspective.

On this American holiday, when some pubs put away the bangers and the mash and the toad-in-the-hole and other British pub staples and offer American delicacies like hot dogs and hamburgers, Roddick was the last Yank man in the tournament.

Pete Sampras is gone and Andre Agassi hopped a plane days ago, leaving Roddick, not yet 21, still standing on the final Friday, where McEnroe and Connors used to preen.

The Williams sisters, of course, have cornered the market at Wimbledon, meeting each other on Saturday in the women's final. Venus said she was resting her strained abdominal muscle; Serena was surely mentally figuring out how to make her big sister stretch and lunge.

Meanwhile, Roddick was NBC's last hope for "Breakfast at Wimbledon" on Sunday morning. He even allowed himself the vision of 9-year-old kids back home in the dens and decks of America, munching on eggs and bacon and watching him.

More likely they're watching MTV or pro wrestling or playing with a Game Boy. Maybe a few are reading Harry Potter. But Federer destroyed those pleasant little visions. This is a big world. Switzerland produced a player who humbled an American at Center Court. Meanwhile, Mark Philippoussis of Australia moved into the final with a 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-3 victory over Sebastien Grosjean of France.

Logic dictates that a Grand Slam tournament with seven rounds should produce superior players and superior play round by round, the way the NCAA basketball tournament evolves from subregionals to regionals to Final Four. And that is what we had here. Federer and Philippoussis were clearly superior to their opponents. They played a minimal total of six sets on Friday, instead of the maximum of 10.

Roddick did the only thing he could. After falling behind by a break in the third set, he turned his white cap around, moving the peak from front to back, which is how he used to wear his caps. It didn't help.

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