Roddick falls apart 2 points from match


WIMBLEDON, England (AP) – Two points.

That’s how close Andy Roddick was to getting another crack at Roger Federer at Wimbledon.

Two points.

Up two sets and a break against a kid making his Grand Slam quarterfinal debut, and later just-that-far from winning, the No. 3-seeded Roddick unraveled Friday, losing 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3), 8-6 to No. 12 Richard Gasquet of France.

A white baseball cap tugged over his eyes, the usually gregarious Roddick discussed the defeat deliberately and in a monotone, as if he couldn’t quite believe what happened.

“Well, it’s another lost opportunity at Wimbledon,” the American said. “I’d love to make you try to understand what it feels like in the pit of (my) stomach right now, but I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t know if I’m articulate enough.”

He lost to four-time defending champion Federer at the All England Club in the 2003 semifinals and the next two finals. Another showdown loomed because they were in the same half of the draw, and Federer beat 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 in an earlier quarterfinal Friday.

Might Roddick have been thinking ahead, even a tad, once he built his big lead against Gasquet?

“No,” was Roddick’s reply.

So instead of having the four top-seeded men in the Wimbledon semifinals for the first time since 1995, Gasquet will be the interloper facing No. 1 Federer on Saturday, while No. 2 Rafael Nadal meets No. 4 Novak Djokovic.

Saturday also features Venus Williams against Marion Bartoli in the women’s final, right on schedule, despite all of the rain over the past 1 weeks. The No. 31 Williams, bidding for a fourth Wimbledon title, and the No. 19 Bartoli – never before past the fourth round at a major – are the two lowest-ranked women to reach the final at the All England Club.

Not only does the top-ranked Federer take a 52-match winning streak on grass into his semifinal, but he also had the advantage of having played a little more than 1 hours Friday in his rain-suspended match against Ferrero and walking off court before 3:30 p.m. Gasquet’s struggle against Roddick, in contrast, lasted more than 3 hours and finished after 8 p.m.

“I am tired,” said Gasquet, who hit more aces than Roddick, 23-22, and far more winners, 93-60. “I played a lot of time, with a lot of pressure.”

His wasn’t even close to the longest workday, though. Djokovic played for 5 hours – 5 minutes shy of the longest one-day singles match in the tournament’s 130-year history – before pulling out a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (9), 6-7 (3), 4-6, 7-5 victory over No. 10 Marcos Baghdatis on Court 1.

“Somebody had to win today,” Baghdatis said, “so it was him.”

Before the third set, he was treated by a trainer for some fatigue in his right shoulder, weary from hitting shot after shot. Before the fifth, Djokovic dropped to the ground so a trainer could massage his lower back.

“How did I manage to hold on?” Djokovic asked afterward. “Now I’m really trying to recover and get ready for the next one.”

Both he and Nadal were faced with a sixth consecutive day on court Saturday, but the three-time French Open champion, like Federer, should be able to count on an edge in the freshness department.

Nadal, trying to become the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win at Roland Garros and the All England Club in the same year, needed barely more than 2 hours to eliminate No. 7 Tomas Berdych 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-2.

A year ago, Nadal was the only player who won a set against Federer at the grass-court major, doing so in the final. Ferrero turned the trick Friday and was right there with the Swiss star at 1-1 in the third set.

That’s when Federer really got going, taking 20 of that set’s last 24 points.

“Happy to have a set against him?” said Ferrero, once ranked No. 1. “No, no. I was trying to win the match, not to win a set.”

Because Federer’s fourth-round opponent withdrew with an injury, he had more than five full days off before facing Ferrero. There was some rust early on, but plenty of brilliance late, from return winners to second-serve aces to one backhand down the line that left Ferrero shaking his head.

“I decided in the third set to just play a bit more offensive, go for my shots a little bit,” Federer said. “You’ve got to decide what you want to do with the ball.”

And so that he did.

Earlier in the week, he had to decide what to do with all of that free time.

“Instead of the locker room, I was at home, which was a bit more cozy,” Federer said. “I went to the city once or twice. Went to the hairdresser. Watched movies. Played cards.”

Considering how he played for the first hour or so against the 21-year-old Gasquet, Roddick looked set to give Federer a true test.

Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, led 4-2 in the third set. But Gasquet held at love to 4-3, then hit two consecutive backhand winners – his best stroke – en route to breaking for 4-4. Eventually, that set marked the end of Roddick’s streak of winning 18 straight tiebreakers. And Gasquet took the next tiebreaker, too, after Roddick almost took the match.

With Roddick ahead 6-5 in the fourth set and Gasquet serving, the Frenchman put a forehand into the net to make it 30-30 – two points from the end. But Roddick missed a forehand wide, then Gasquet smacked an ace to take the game. That was as close as Roddick would get, and Gasquet won for the first time after trailing 2-0 in sets.

“When you put your blood, sweat and tears – everything you have – into something,” Roddick said, “and you can almost taste it – you envision something and it doesn’t work out – it’s not easy.”