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ATHENS 2004

Roddick Has Major Roadblock Removed for Him

Federer is stunned by young Czech Berdych. American struggles, but he holds off Haas.

August 18, 2004|Bill Dwyre | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — For American tennis star Andy Roddick, the phrase "golden opportunity" is now more than an overused term. In this Olympic tournament, it became an apt description of the obvious here Tuesday night.

His biggest obstacle to winning the gold medal was Roger Federer, the world's No. 1 player. So when Federer uncharacteristically lost the magic that has made him virtually untouchable since he broke through with his first Wimbledon title in 2003, Roddick, seeded second, became the next-best-man standing.

But for a while, it wasn't a certainty that Roddick would get through either. Shortly after Federer had been stunned by 18-year-old Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, Roddick was scrambling against highly regarded German Tommy Haas.

Playing some of the best tennis of the year, Roddick and Haas each won a set and stayed on serve to 6-6, continuing on to 7-7, because there are no tiebreakers in deciding sets in the Olympics.

When Haas had finally given way, after 2 hours 19 minutes, after saving five match points while failing to convert three of his own, Roddick had a 4-6, 6-3, 9-7 victory.

Roddick, however, wanted nothing to do with his new favorite's role.

"Like I've said all week and all month and for the last two months, all this talk of Roger and me is irrelevant until it actually comes to fruition," he said. "I still have to play my tournament. I have a long way to go, whether Roger is in the tournament or not."

Federer struggled in his first-round match Monday night, and Tuesday night served 10 double faults against Berdych, who has advanced more than 1,100 spots in the rankings since he joined the tour in 2001. The Czech, who had saved three match points, hit a backhand service return on match point that sailed past Federer so fast he could barely react.

"I had the chance and I beat him," Berdych said, "and so it is unbelievable."

Next up for Roddick is hard-hitting Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, but it might be some of his U.S. teammates who eventually get in his way of the gold.

Mardy Fish, Roddick's roommate here, upset fifth-seeded Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, and will meet Roddick in the semifinals if both get through. Taylor Dent advanced with a solid 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over veteran Dominic Hrbaty of Slovakia.

The only casualty for the U.S. men was Vince Spadea, a 7-6 (3), 6-2 loser to Nicolas Massu of Chile.

All three U.S. women in the singles, as well as the No. 1 men's doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan, advanced.

Venus Williams played a flawless singles match and eliminated Maja Matevzik of Slovenia, 6-0, 6-0, in 39 minutes. Chanda Rubin defeated Cara Black of Zimbabwe, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, and Lisa Raymond, replacing the injured Jennifer Capriati, got past 14th-seeded Sylvia Farina Elia, 6-1, 6-2.

The Bryans beat Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov of Belarus, 6-3, 6-3.

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