Sun, Nov 02, 2003 - Page 22 News List

Roddick squeaks past Jonas Bjorkman

PARIS MASTERS Top-ranked Andy Roddick's semifinal match is Tim Henman of Britain, who upset Wimbledon champion and third-seeded Roger Federer 7-6 (5), 6-1

AP , PARIS

World No. 1 Andy Roddick of the USA returns to Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden in the quarter finals of the Paris Masters ATP tennis tournament at Paris Bercy stadium, Friday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Brand new world No. 1 Andy Roddick struggled through his first day in the limelight but emerged victorious, reaching the Paris Masters semifinals with a 7-5, 7-6 (0) win over Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman on Friday.

Overcoming a tough opponent Friday, Roddick fired 19 aces -- one barely visible at 219kph -- and 34 winners as he powered on in pursuit of his seventh title of the year.

"I was just happy to go out and get a win," said Roddick, the reigning US Open champion. He called his newly attained top-ranking "a nice stat, but it would be even nicer if it was at the end of the year."

The year-end No. 1 ranking will be decided at the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup, when the world's top eight players square off in Houston, Texas, Nov. 8-16.

Roddick replaced Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero as the world's top-ranked player by advancing to the quarterfinals Thursday. Ferrero was eliminated by No. 14 seed Jiri Novak, who advanced to the semis with a 6-2, 6-1 win Friday over Morocco's Hicham Arazi.

At 21, Roddick is the fourth-youngest player atop the computer rankings since the ATP Tour introduced them in 1973.

On Friday, Roddick misfired many of his powerful baseline shots and sent several service returns way out. But he lived up to his reputation as the fastest server on the men's circuit.

He took game eight of the first set by reeling off four consecutive aces -- two over the 200kph mark.

"I thought I served pretty well today," Roddick said. "It's just what I have to do to win."

His next hurdle is Henman. The Briton demonstrated top quality serve-volley tennis as he toppled Federer and said he has never felt so consistent.

"I'm in a relaxed frame of mind but an aggressive one," said Henman, who has had a good week, beating No. 7 Sebastien Grosjean and three-time French Open winner Gustavo Kuerten in earlier rounds.

Against Roddick, Henman is 1-1. The Britain beat Roddick in the semifinals at Washington this year, and the American got revenge in the first round of the US Open.

Saturday's other semifinal will be a clash between Romania's Andrei Pavel and Novak.

Pavel upset No. 5 seed Rainer Schuettler 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in their quarterfinal Friday.

The Romanian sprinted around the court, scooping up saves and dictating much of the match. The performance marked a highlight for Pavel amid an otherwise miserable season of injuries and early exits.

"The whole year was not a very good one for me," said the 29-year-old, who was sidelined for six months with back and wrist injuries. "But now it's behind me."

Pavel, who recently exited both Lyon and St. Petersburg in the first round, entered Friday's match well-rested. He advanced to the quarters with a third-round walkover Thursday when Guillermo Coria withdrew with a fever.

"Maybe I was a little bit more fresh than he was," Pavel said, referring to Schuettler, an Australian Open finalist with back-to-back titles at Lyon and Tokyo over the past month.

The German was visibly rattled Friday _ biting his nails between points, slamming his racket after easy misses and converting only two of 12 break opportunities against Pavel.

"I didn't take my chances," Schuettler said. "He was the better player today."

The win -- Pavel's fourth over Schuettler in as many career meetings -- ushers the Romanian into his first Paris semifinal after 11 tries.

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