Roddick looks good, but Federer still looks better

Andy Roddick has not been this close to a Grand Slam final for two years but given the size of the task he faces he may never have seemed further away.

The big-serving American has been outstanding in the Australian Open so far, cruising through to the final four and knocking off defending champion Novak Djokovic in Tuesday's quarters.

Roddick has every right to be feeling good about his game. Six weeks of intensive fitness training with coach Larry Stefanki was a punishing yet productive way to spend the end of 2008.

Fifteen pounds lighter, his physical levels are now among the strongest on tour and the 26-year-old looks primed for a big year.

When Roddick stepped off Rod Laver Arena to follow the stricken Djokovic, who retired due to severe physical discomfort as temperatures climbed more than 120 degrees on court, it was easy to feel good about his chances of adding to his only Grand Slam, the 2003 U.S. Open.

Within a few hours, though, such an outcome seemed as likely as a sudden snowstorm in the sweltering surrounds of Melbourne Park.

Roger Federer's brutal destruction of Juan Martin Del Potro under the lights of Tuesday's night session was perhaps the most pivotal moment of the tournament so far.

So much for Roddick's hopes that the Argentine youngster could keep Federer on court for an extended period of time and sap his energy reserves.

Del Potro, No. 6 in the world and tipped for future greatness, was bullied and destroyed 6-3, 6-0, 6-0 in 80 torturous minutes.

Federer might have been human in his five-setter struggle against Tomas Berdych in Round 4. But this was superhuman and it would surely have given Roddick indigestion if he watched on television over dinner at his City Center hotel.

A look at his record against Federer will have done little to soothe Roddick's stomach or boost his confidence either.

Roddick did beat the Swiss world No. 2 the last time they met, in Miami last year. That was in the middle of a Federer funk, though, and merely took the head-to-head record to 2-15. Federer won the 2007 Australian Open semifinal between the pair for the loss of only six games.

"One of the things that makes Roger great is he makes that very difficult to play on your terms," said Roddick. "I think it helps that I stopped a big streak against him last year in Miami. It's certainly not going to hurt at all."

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