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Martin Rogers

Wimbledon Slice, Day 9: Opportunity knocks for Roddick

Busted Racquet

First serve
Opportunity knocks for Andy Roddick, louder than it has for years. Two matches are all that separate him from the second Grand Slam title he never imagined he would have to wait so long for.

All he has to do to achieve it is to pull off the impossible.

Roddick's reaction to his victory in a marathon quarterfinal against Lleyton Hewitt was somewhat muted, given the enormity of the struggle these two courageous fighters had put up for nearly four hours.

Perhaps it should be no surprise, because even with five wins under his belt the hard bit hasn't even started yet.

The way things are clicking into place with Roddick - first with Rafael Nadal's absence from his section of the draw and his booming serve firing nicely - he could be forgiven for feeling this tournament is his time, his destiny.

That U.S. Open triumph in 2003 must seem like a lifetime ago, and Roddick knows there may not be many better opportunities than this if he is to avoid going down in history as a one-Slam wonder.

However, the path to glory could scarcely be harder, and outside Roddick's own camp few expect him to prevail.

The first challenge, a mighty one, comes against home hero Andy Murray in what promises to be an emotionally charged semifinal on Friday.

Murray's title quest has captured the imagination of the British public for the past week and a half, and he will have the support of a nation when he steps out to face Roddick.

The pair met here in 2006, with Murray, then still an emerging star, cutting down Roddick with a brilliant returning display in straight sets.

Murray is now twice the player he was then, one of an elite group at the top of the sport and a genuine threat in any Grand Slam tournament.

And if Roddick manages to overcome all that then he would likely be matched up against a certain Roger Federer in the final, a man against whom he has an appalling record including two final defeats here.
Roddick should sleep well Thursday night, not just because of the physical effort exerted against Hewitt. His game is running well, and he has done little wrong on his route to the last four.

But he will also know that he needs to play two of the matches of his life if he is to stand a chance of taking home the prize - and even then it might not be enough.

Drop shot

Roger Federer came up with a few flashes of genius but for those of us interested in seeing competitive tennis, his quarterfinal cruise against Ivo Karlovic made for fairly dull viewing. The big Croatian was simply not in the same class and appeared to suffer from an untimely bout of nerves.

It would be worth watching Federer hit balls against a brick wall, but surely the Andy Roddick-Lleyton Hewitt encounter would have been a better choice for Centre Court.

Clean winner
When it was suggested to Tommy Haas that he is playing tennis from a different era, he had a swift and witty response: "I am from a different era."

Haas may have been harsh on himself - at 31, he is hardly ready for a retirement home, and certainly not on the evidence of his efforts at Wimbledon. A four-set demolition of Novak Djokovic was the latest tremendous performance at these championships by Haas, who fully deserves any success that comes his way after years of battling crippling injuries.

Raising the roof

More scorching weather - more reminiscent of the Australian Open than the traditionally gloomy London skies - meant that once again, the famous roof saw no action.

Game of the day
There was only one realistic choice for this - the five-set epic between Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick on Court 1. Neither man gave an inch as they traded blows for nearly four hours, with Roddick eventually coming through 6-4 in the fifth set.

Thursday's predictions

Sorry to be boring, but as hard as I tried, there was simply no way I could pick against the Williams sisters. Both the Americans look unstoppable and are surely destined to meet in the final.

Serena Williams beats Elena Dementieva
Venus Williams beats Dinara Safina

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