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Roddick, Youzhny Meet Again

A five-set comeback win over the Russian at 2003 Australian Open was a milestone for the American. Today they face off at the U.S. Open.

September 09, 2006|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — One of the more important victories in Andy Roddick's career came half a world away in the 2003 Australian Open against a Russian Davis Cup hero.

Everyone talks about Roddick's epic turn in defeating Younes El Aynaoui, 21-19, in the fifth set in the quarterfinals. But almost forgotten was the match before that one, another marathon in the fourth round.

Roddick, who had never rallied to win after losing the first two sets, finally shattered that barrier when he clawed his way back to defeat Mikhail Youzhny, 6-7 (4), 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2, in 3 hours 14 minutes.

"It was exhilarating to play," Roddick said that day in January. "It was fun. Midway through the third, I was thinking if there was a flight out tonight or tomorrow."

And now in the U.S. Open semifinals, Youzhny crosses his path again at a crucial moment in Roddick's career. They have played just once since that breakthrough match in Melbourne, and are 2-2 overall, with the ninth-seeded Roddick attempting to reach the final here for the first time since he won the Open in 2003.

Their match follows the first semifinal today between No. 1-seeded Roger Federer and No. 7 Nikolay Davydenko, the iron man of tennis.

Federer, who has dropped one set in five matches, is 7-0 against Davydenko, but they've had their share of tight contests, including a four-setter in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open this year.

"He's really improved a lot on hard courts," Federer said. "We all knew he could play on clay and everything. All of a sudden, he found another gear, more confidence from the baseline. Also incredibly fit, never breaks down."

Before this tournament, the tennis world was weighing the prospect of a third consecutive Grand Slam final between Federer and No. 2 Rafael Nadal, who won the French Open in June before Federer earned his fourth straight Wimbledon title four weeks later.

But Youzhny disrupted the story by beating Nadal in four sets in the quarterfinals here, and now he will try to mar the Roddick/Jimmy Connors script. Federer, the reigning Australian Open champion, is seeking his third Grand Slam title this year.

Roddick and Connors joined forces shortly after Wimbledon, and the legendary left-hander has quickly restored the 24-year-old's confidence, which took a sizable hit with a subpar 2006. The long ride back has put his 2003 title in a different light, and Roddick addressed that victory after beating Lleyton Hewitt in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

"It was a completely different scenario then," Roddick said. "It was all new and exciting. I hadn't really had anything tough in my career yet. I kind of shot up real quick, and then had a hot summer, and maybe I didn't realize what was going on. I think now maybe it's a bit more gratifying."

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Head to head

How today's semifinalists in the U.S. Open men's singles competition have fared in previous meetings:

ROGER FEDERER (1) vs. NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO (7)

Federer leads, 7-0

*--* Year Tournament Surface Round Win ner 2002 Milan carpet-indoor of 16 Fed ere r, 6-3 , 6-7 (4) , 7-5 . 2004 Miami Masters hard-outdoor of 64 Fed ere r, 6-2 , 3-6 , 7-5 . 2004 Olympics hard-outdoor of 64 Fed ere r, 6-3 , 5-7 , 6-1 . 2005 Doha hard-outdoor Semis Fed ere r, 6-3 , 6-4 . 2005 Rotterdam hard-indoor Quarters Fed ere r, 7-5 , 7-5 . 2005 Hamburg Masters clay-outdoor Semis Fed ere r, 6-3 , 6-4 . 2006 Australian Open hard-outdoor Quarters Fed ere r, 6-4 , 3-6 , 7-6 (7) , 7-6 (5) . ANDY RODDICK (9) vs. MIKHAIL YOUZHNY Tied, 2-2 Year Tournament Surface Round Win ner 2001 Queen's Club grass-outdoor of 64 You zhn y, 7-6 (5) , 6-3 . 2002 Madrid Masters hard-outdoor of 32 You zhn y, 6-3 , 6-4 . 2003 Australian Open hard-outdoor of 16 Rod dic k, 6-7 (4) , 3-6 , 7-5 , 6-3 , 6-2 . 2005 Cincinnati Masters hard-outdoor Quarters Rod dic k, 2-6 , 6-3 , 6-4 .

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Source: Associated Press

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