The Dark Knight Returns

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – With his one handed backhand and quick ability to attack the net, Roger Federer looked superior, almost like a super hero fighting a henchman early in the story.

And his dismantling of Santiago Giraldo, 6-4 6-3 6-2, may look like an easy win on paper, but it really added something to the Federer lore. He’s not just a super hero, he’s the Dark Knight of the Open.

Much like Christian Bale’s title character from the movies, Federer does his best work at night, under the lights when the pressure is on.

“[The crowd] can’t wander around to different courts and say, Okay, on Court 2 we have this going on; Louis Armstrong we have that happening,” said Federer, who with tonight’s win has tied Andre Aggasi tonight for most wins in majors at 224. “No avoiding that limelight.  You do feel that pressure as well.  When you miss a stupid volley, you go like, Yeah, everybody saw it.  I’m a bit of an idiot here right now.  Better don’t miss that next time because on TV everybody’s watching, in the stadium everybody saw it.

“So you do feel that pressure.  Yes, you do.  That’s why I think Giraldo did well tonight.  Also you’re thinking about me, but think of the other guy who is playing a top guy in that stadium.  It’s also not that easy.  Surely he can swing freely, there’s nothing to lose, but also he does feel that big stage.”

Being Federer, who has seen it all, craves the excitement of the night in Queens. The Maestro said he likes the rock and roll atmosphere of the Open as much as tones of other tournaments.

“When you have some success, you actually start enjoying different types of atmospheres:  loud, you know, crazy, to very proper and never applauding on a mistake like you have in Japan,” Federer said.  “Then you go to England where they know exactly what is a good shot and what is a bad shot.  Then you go to Switzerland where it’s also very proper again.

“So I like that, you know, difference we have.  Music played on the change of ends.  They’re showing all sorts of stuff on the big screens; whereas in other places it’s just complete silence.  So I like that change.

“Here, this is a huge tournament which I like a lot and have had such amazing success that obviously every year I will come back here to New York I’ll feel that it’s a place that’s very special to me and where I usually do actually play my very best tennis.”

Federer feels this year’s Open may be a little different. The court speed in Flushing has always been known as notorious fast surface, but he sees it as a little slower this year.

“It’s definitely slower,” he said.  “Obviously, night sessions always maybe play a touch slower than the day clearly.  I really have the feeling conditions are slower this year than last year here at the Open.

“So it takes I think some getting used to.  You’re not getting as many free points maybe with your serve.  Maybe that was part of the inconsistent play I had early on in the first couple of sets.

“As the match went on, I think I started to get more solid and better, and that’s a good feeling to have.  But the ball really gets used after a while, I have to say.  I was quite surprised.”

Yet, this is Roger Federer and the Dark Knight of tennis is used to all surfaces no matter what the changes are. He attacked the net more in his match tonight, especially against Giraldo, whose best surface is clay, while also taking changes, simply because, well he’s better.

And isn’t that why the super hero always wins?

“Why am I successful?,” he pondered.  “I guess because I’m a pretty good player and I’m usually the favorite when I go into these matches, so I expect myself to win.  I should win these matches, thank God, and I more often do than don’t.”

The Dark Knight rises in the second round against Israeli Dudi Sela.

All-Star Matchup In The Semis As Federer Takes On Djokovic

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – In a match where timely shotmaking turned the tide time after time, Roger Federer fittingly rocked the court-side clock with one final authoritative ace to cap a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 sweep of Robin Soderling and fly into the US Open final four for the seventh straight year. Continuing his quest to regain the US Open title he lost to Juan Martin del Potro last September, Federer will square off against Novak Djokovic in Saturday’s semifinals in their fourth consecutive Flushing Meadows clash.

It was a superlative serving performance from Federer, who ripped 18 aces and saved five of six break points in subduing Soderling. The fifth-seeded Swede had four break point chances at the outset of the match but could not convert and Federer picked up his serve considerably from that point forward.

“I think the serve was today the biggest key, because obviously he’s very famous for serving extremely accurate, extremely hard, over a long period of time,” Federer said. “That’s what makes him so hard to beat really. That wasn’t the case today.  He struggled to get the pace, the accuracy going, until midway through the third set when I think he started to hit it a bit better.  Then it was almost too late, really.”

The third-seeded Djokovic came to court with a dragon on his back, fire in his eyes and after an early mis-step found the swagger in his step in scorching a flat and floundering Gael Monfils, 7-6(2), 6-1, 6-2, to storm into the semifinals.

Hard court is Djokovic’s best surface. He can use his expansive reach to rip returns down the lines off both sides, he covers the court quickly and the speed of the Deco Turf adds some sting to his serve. Federer has won eight of his 12 meetings on hard court with Djokovic, but believes Djokovic is at his best on hard court.

“I think this kind of favors his play the most, kind of a faster hard court, because he can pick up some incredible balls, you know, half volley them, redirect them,” Federer said. “It helps maybe serve a bit more, and on the return he can, you know, zone in a bit, and all of a sudden he’s really tough to pass, you know, when he’s returning. That’s what makes him one of the best players in the game right now, and especially on this surface he’s obviously in the top 3 or 4.  That’s why he’s been able to play consistent here at the Open.  He’s obviously waiting for a breakthrough where he can win this title.”

Djokovic fell to Federer in the 2007 final and was victimized by Federer’s stupefying between-the-legs passing shot in last September’s semifinal. Djokovic said stylistically, the rivalry has not changed; he’s just hoping to reverse the result on Saturday.

“We do have more or less same game, you know.  Just maybe experience wise in my case I feel better now,” Djokovic said. “Physically I feel better than I did last year.  I feel stronger, faster on the court.  The conditions are quite different, so let’s see, you know.  Let’s see how this Saturday is gonna come out, you know, if we gonna have normal conditions or not.”

The second-seeded Swiss is 10-5 lifetime vs. Djokovic, including a 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 win in Toronto last month.

“Here we go again,” Federer said in anticipation of the latest installment of his rivalry with Djokovic. “He’s a great player. I got really lucky to get through there in Toronto and he’s obviously looking for the big break through here at the Open, so it’s gonna be a tough one.”

Though Federer has won nine of the 10 sets he’s played vs. Djokovic at the Open, the matches have typically been tightly-contested affairs, including the Swiss stylist’s 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 6-4 triumph in the 2007 final in which Federer fended off five set points in the first set and two set points in the second set, relying on his edge in experience, expertise in playing the the right shots on pivotal points, exceptional anticipation and a first serve that was sharpest in crucial stages to subdue the first Serbian man to contest major final.

Since his five-set win over Serbian Davis Cup teammate Viktor Troicki in the first round, the Djoker has won 12 consecutive sets and will enter the semifinals playing his best tennis of the tournament.

Opening the season by capturing his 16th career major championship in Melbourne in Australia, Federer suffered successive Grand Slam quarterfinal setbacks at Roland Garros and Wimbledon ending his reign in Paris and London and increasing speculation that Federer was more vulnerable in majors than ever.

On a drizzly day in June,  Soderling reigned a series of resounding winners across the red clay in overwhelming Federer, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the French Open quarterfinals to snap the World No. 1’s record streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals. It was Federer’s first loss before a Grand Slam semifinal in seven years, ending one of the most hallowed record streaks in tennis history.

Soderling could not reproduced that form tonight, in part because the wind wreaked havoc with his high ball toss and because he has little margin for error on his flat strokes.

“I didn’t put so many first serves in as I needed to because of the wind,” Soderling said. “It was tough for me. So I could have needed some more first serves. Maybe I would have played better then.”

The lanky Swede did not hit an ace until the third set. To his credit, Soderling did not give up the fight as Monfils did in today’s first quarterfinal against Djokovic. He began to center his shots more and when Federer missed the mark on an inside-out forehand, Soderling broke for 5-3 in the third set.

The two-time French Open finalist could not capitalize on the break, putting a forehand into net as Federer broke back for 4-5.

Down 15-30 Federer benefited from a Soderling error to draw even then lured the big man forward with a drop shot followed by a forehand volley that rattled Soderling’s Head racquet. For all his prodigious power from the backcourt, Soderling is almost clueless at times at net and he screamed in frustration at himself as Federer eventually worked out a hold for 5-all.

Summer started with a struggle for Federer, who followed his French Open demise with a Wimbledon quarterfinal loss to Tomas Berdych. But he’s crafted another late-summer resurgence in picking up his play after Labor Day and working toward a potential blockbuster final against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal.

“I think he’s playing great. Because he lost in the quarters of the French and in Wimbledon, some people think he’s more vulnerable than ever.  But I think he’s actually playing really well,” Djokovic said of Federer. “He played great in Toronto and Cincinnati, and he’s just loves this surface.  He loves this tournament.  He has won so many times. Obviously he’s a favorite.  But, you know, we played so many times, and mostly we played on this surface.  It’s no secret in each other’s game.  Just I will try to hold on, you know.  He always tries to put pressure on his opponent.  He’s very aggressive.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Verdasco Wins An Epic Battle Over Ferrer

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Fernando Verdasco spent this New York night engaged in an epic tennis tug-of-war with compatriot David Ferrer with neither man giving an inch over five sets and four hours, 23 minutes of scintillating shotmaking that seemed to cover every available inch of court. Grinding his teeth, screaming at himself at times and hurling his body all over the court in pursuit of every ball, a combative Verdasco competed with all the tenacity of a man fighting his way out of a rugby scrum in roaring back from a two-set deficit and a 1-4 chasm in the fifth-set tie breaker.

When Verdasaco’s match point moment came, he seized it with the most electrifying effort of the match.

Running down a Ferrero shot well behind the baseline, Verdasco stumbled slightly, regained his balance then sprinted forward to lift a lunging forehand pass up the line  — an exceptional exclamation point to punctuate a 5-7, 6-7(8), 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory that vaulted Verdasco into the US Open quarterfinals for the second straight year.

“After I lost the first two sets, of course, it’s tough,” Verdasco said. “You just need to win all the other sets. I came back till the fifth set and of course even that I was 4-1 down in the tie break, I was not going to say ‘Okay, that’s it. I was going to try my best until the end. I was, of course, with 4-1 down in teh tie break  much more chances to lose than to win, but I just kept fighting and trying.”

When Verdasco saw Ferrer near net, he anticipated the volley, streaked forward on a diagonal line and was near the doubles alley when he caught up to the ball. Reaching the ball was a feat in itself, it’s what Verdasco did with it that will make this shot one for the highlight reel.

Seeing a sliver of space up the line, he squeezed his stretch forehand down the line, watched the ball land and then fell flat on his back, staring straight up into the white lights as the crowd exploded in support.

“(It) is tough to explain. You are with your sixth sense in the ball knowing how important that is just trying to run, fight,” Verdasco said. “When I did the backhand along the line passing shot, I was like even surprised that he took the volley. Of course my reaction was just keeping the point and start running forward…So I start running I just saw the space. When you see there is a little bit of space, you just try to put the ball in. It was like unbelievable.”

The eighth-seeded Spaniard will face World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the first all-Spanish US Open quarterfinal in Open Era history. Nadal crushed a crackling forhand winner to conclude an impressive 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over 23rd-seeded Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.

Will Verdasco, who is winless in 10 career meetings with Nadal, have any legs left for the quarterfinal?

“I hope that this is gonna give me big confidence, this match,” Verdasco said. “And I also hope to be 100 percent physically after a tough match like today to play against one player like Nadal that you need to be like 100 percent to try to face him, to try to beat him. I will just try to do all the things right and good as best as possible. Everybody knows that he’s No. 1 in the world; he’s a great plaeyr. My record is not too good against him. But I will keep trying and keep fighting to make the first time here.”

It was a crushing loss for Ferrer, who had not dropped a set in his three tournament wins.

The 10th-seeded Ferrer was three points from victory at 4-1 in the tie breaker, but could not seal the deal.  Verdasco cracked a crosscourt backhand winner then took advantage of three Ferrer errors to earn match point.

Speaking in a clear, quiet voice with a half-full bottle of Evian at his finger tips, Ferrer was left ruing the match that slipped through his fingers.

“Verdasco played really well,” Ferrer said. “But from 4-1 up, I play so bad, so bad. I have a chance in the third set and he played really good. I fight a lot, as hard as I could. It was difficult one.”

It was such a ferociously fought match, Verdasco actually apologized to Ferrer in the locker room after the match.

“He told me ‘Well done.’ ” Verdasco said. “I told him, like ‘I’m really sorry.’ Then I told him like you know that we need to keep fighting to be both in the Masters Cup. We have a great relationship. Of course when you lose a match like this today for him, if I lost this match for sure I (would be) so upset and pissed in the locker room. But at the end we are good friends and I want (for) him the best.”

They brought out the best in each other tonight.

Richard Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Wawrinka Wins A War Over Querrey

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Dancing behind the baseline like a man ready to burst out of the blocks, Stanislas Wawrinka could see the finish line as clearly as the service line in front of him. Wawrinka and Sam Querrey engaged in a four hour, 28-minute duel on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court this afternoon. In the end, Wawrinka withstood Querrey’s mammoth forehand and the pressure of the moment with some sustained forward thinking and fast feet.

Chipping and charging on his second match point, Wawrinka knifed a sharp backhand volley winner to complete a 7-6(9), 6-7(5), 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory over the 20th-seeded Querrey and advance to his first career major quarterfinal in a win that eradicates American hopes and ensures there will be a European US Open men’s champion.

There is now no US in the US Open men’s singles as Wawrinka took down the last American man standing. It marks the second straight year there will be no American man in the quarterfinals. It happened for the first time in Open Era history last year.

Switzerland, a nation about the size of Massachusetts and New Jersey combined, has two men in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in Open Era history. Wawrinka joins five-time US Open champion Roger Federer in giving Switzerland two of the last eight men in the field.

While Querrey gave a valiant effort in a magnificent marathon match, Wawrinka pounced when Querrey blinked.

“For sure it is an amazing match to finish here against Querrey, who is a great player,” Wawrinka said. “It’s crazy. I was just trying to fight for every point. I’m very very happy to be in the quarterfinals.”

Querrey, who has never come back from a two set to one deficit to win a Grand Slam match, played with patience and power in converting his seventh set point to level the match at two sets apiece.

Blasting a bullet serve into the body that Wawrinka could only fend off with his frame, Querrey collected his seventh set point then smacked his 17th ace wide to level the match after three hours, 36 minutes of play.

Wawrinka has the weathered, leathery face of a fighter and the burly upper body and strong shoulders of a bouncer, enabling him to turn his torso into his one-handed backhand that is one of the most brilliant shots in the sport. For all his physical gifts, the knock on Wawrinka in the past was his tendency to go soft at crunch time.

Working with new coach Peter Lundgren, who guided Roger Federer and Marat Safin to Grand Slam titles and was trading confident fist-bumps with his friend in the player box at match point moment today, Wawrinka has become a much more confident and aggressive player seeking to step into his shots and impose pressure on opponents by getting to the front court.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Down Goes Roddick

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Andy Roddick stepped on the line then tumbled out of the US Open second round tonight. Janko Tipsarevic out served, out fought and out hustled Roddick, scoring a stirring 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory that sent Roddick to his earliest Flushing Meadows exit since he lost to Gilles Muller in the opening round five years ago.

The tattoos that adorn his arms combined with with the sports spectacles on his face make Tipsarevic look a little bit like a biker moonlighting as a philosophy professor. The explosive Serbian stood up to the ninth-seeded American and a pro-Roddick crowd cracking 66 winners against just 30 unforced errors.

“I thought I hit the ball pretty well,” Roddick said. “I thought he played very high-risk and executed for four sets. I kept telling myself this has to have an expiration date on it. Unfortunately, I needed another set for that.”

In the fourth-set tie breaker, Roddick sent a backhand beyond the baseline and Tipsarevic followed with a backhand volley winner for 4-2. Attacking net again, Tipsarevic forced Roddick to come up with a pass, but his backhand found the net and it was 5-2.

On the longest point of the set, a 19-shot physical exchange, Tipsarevic sent a backhand long as Roddick creeped closer at 4-5. But Tipsarevic launched his 5-foot-11 inch frame into a stinging serve down the middle and Roddick flailed a forehand return into net giving the Serbian, whose black beard seemed to grow longer during the three hour, 18 minute encounter, a match point.

Tipsarevic again attacked, anticipated Roddick’s reply and blocked a backhand volley winner down the line to wrap up his second win over Roddick in a major. He beat the former World No. 1 in the second round of the 2008 Wimbledon.

At net, Roddick congratulated Tipsarevic with both praise and a playful death threat.

“He said ‘Well done, man. You played great,’ ” Tipsarevic recalled. “And he said ‘If you lose early, I’m going to kill you.’ He said ‘You beat me at Wimbledon and now if you lose early, I’m going to freaking kill you.’ ”

Roddick says he’s recovered from the case of mononucleosis that plagued him earlier this summer yet the malaise continues to cripple his game.

The 2003 US Open champion played some of the best tennis of his career in reaching successive Masters finals in Indian Wells and Miami where he dispatched Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych back-to-back to capture the Sony Ericsson Open.

He returned to New York to contest his 11th consecutive US Open leading the ATP Tour in hard-court wins but looked reluctant to unload on his forehand and didn’t consistently delve into the corners of the box on his second serve. It was as if Roddick was waiting for Tipsarevic to tumble out of the zone, but that moment never arrived.

While Roddick rightly gave Tipsarevic the credit he deserves for producing some spectacular winners on down the line drives, the truth is Roddick simply did not take enough risk and play with enough aggression and ambition when it mattered most.

A  cranky Roddick erupted in anger when hit with a foot fault call while serving at 2-5 in the third set. The lineswoman correctly called the foot fault but incorrectly claimed Roddick’s right rear foot dragged on the baseline when it fact replay showed his left lead foot slid across the line.

An irate Roddick continuously harangued the lineswoman throughout the rest of the game, and was fired up enough to hold for 3-5. Roddick’s problems began before that call as Tipsarevic took advantage of Roddick’s timid tendency to hit straight down the middle.

A half-step slow to a slice backhand, Roddick shoveled that shot long and fell into a 0-30 hole. Roddick slapped a stiff-armed backhand beyond the baseline to face triple break point then bounced his blue Babolat frame off his court in disgust falling into a triple break point hole. Roddick saved the first break point but on the second he was stranded at net and stuck his racquet out like a man waving a cane in vain at a passing train as Tipsarevic blew a backhand pass by him down the line to break for 4-2.

With the exception of a few plaintive “come on Andy” exhortations, the crowd was as deflated as Roddick when Tipsarevic fired his 10th ace past a lunging Roddick to hold for 5-2.

The foot fault call came in the ensuing game inciting an incredulous Roddick to ask chair umpire Enrique Molina “Have you ever seen my right foot step over the line?” Molina shook his head.

“That is unbelievable! My right foot?” said Roddick, who wandered around the back of the court posing variations of that question to Molina, the lineswoman, coach Larry Stefanki and even in th direction of Tournament Referee Brian Earley, who was camped out in the corner of the court.

“Tell me one time my right foot has ever gone ahead of my left foot in my entire career,” Roddick said, seemingly unaware that in fact it was his left foot that touched the baseline. “If it’s my left foot don’t say it’s my right foot,” Roddick said.

Tipsarevic, who had lost only two points on serve in the third  set, fell to 30-all when serving for the set. Roddick had a shot to break back, but Tipsarevic hit a forehand volley winner to earn set point. Roddick attacked net but did not do enough with a volley, Tipsarevic ran it down and rifled a pass to seize the set.

The fired-up Serbian celebrated with a Lleyton Hewitt-esque viche, pointing his finger tips toward his eyes and fist -pumping to his box.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Wozniacki Has Bright Future Ahead

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It’s not easy losing the US Open after a tremendous run, but Caroline Wozniacki has nothing to be embarrassed about.

“There was nothing I could do anymore,” she said. “I lost the last point and I lost the match. She just played better than me. I really did my best. I tried my hardest, and I had a great two weeks. I think it’s just about enjoying the moment, enjoy and enjoy that you were in the finals and just be happy about that.

“Because, I mean, if I started saying, Oh, I should have won, I should have done this and that, I think that would be kind of a sin. I’ve really done great, and I think I should be proud what I’ve achieved.”

Wozniacki didn’t lose the match because she wasn’t talented enough to stay with champion Kim Clijsters – losing 5-7, 3-6 – but the 19 year-old lacked experience. You can see it in the first set as the veteran Belgian lost four games in a row, but then started to make adjustments to Wozniacki’s game.

And although, Wozniacki was two points away from the set, Clijsters would not let her Danish counterpart close her out.

That’s the mark of a champion.

“The first couple of games I wanted to get into the match,” Wozniacki said. “I wanted to just know what I’m up against, and I fast found out that I’m up against a really strong player that doesn’t give away any free points.

“I really had to fight for it. I mean, she played really well. She played aggressive. I mean, yeah, she’s playing really well.”

Clijsters used her experience to move up on Wozniacki as the match went on. Playing on the baseline for most of the first set, she learned that she could come in and volley the ball against her opponent.

The first set was also a return game with six breaks and neither player establishing their serve, but Clijsters was able to do that in the second, which made Wozniacki easy pickings.

“Actually, I feel like I’ve been serving really well the whole tournament, and also today I had parts where I was serving well,” Wozniacki said. “I think, I need some more experience. And, I mean, of course, when I came to the net I was doing the right thing. Sometimes I just missed, and that’s tennis. You can’t hit everything straight.

“But of course all the volleys I wished I could have, you know, finished them up.”

That will come in time. Wozniacki established herself as a force on the tour this year with seven finals under her belt. Although for the first week and a half of the tournament the story was Melanie Oudin, this 19 year-old was the real story and one that has a very bright future ahead.

“Obviously I don’t like losing,” she said. I’m a competitor and I love winning. But I think I’ve had some great weeks here. I mean, I was in the finals of a Grand Slam. I’m only 19 years old, like you were saying.

“I mean, my ranking will go up again, and I’m just happy the way I’m playing and the way I’ve been progressing so far. I feel like, yeah, I’m playing good tennis.”

And that’s all that matters.

Unseeded Parrott and Gullickson Win Mixed Doubles

Entering the Open, Travis Parrott wasn’t even sure who his mixed doubles partner would be because original partner Abigail Spears opted to play with Robert Kendrick instead.

As fate had it, that turned out to be a good omen as it allowed him to text Carly Gullickson who was looking for a partner two days before the tournament. So much for needing practice as the unlikely unseeded American pair got a wildcard and rode it all the way to the mixed doubles crown capping off a great run by upsetting defending champs Cara Black and Leander Paes 6-2, 6-4.

Usually, Black and Paes are as tough as it comes. But the underdogs caught them by surprise to pull it off. Up two breaks in the second after crusing through the opening set, they dropped serve making things tight.

But both remained poised winning on Parrott’s serve when Gullickson putaway a forehand volley into an open court, screaming in joy before hugging her victorious partner.

“I was super-relaxed because I felt no pressure on the court, because it was just fun,” the exhilerated Gullickson said.

The daughter of former MLB pitcher Bill Gullickson played the early hero during their amazing run with her volleying skills besting one of doubles’ best in Max Mirnyi back in Round One, saving match point in their comeback win over Mirnyi and Nadia Petrova.

“Then, you walk into that second round, and you’re just all of a sudden, just happy to be in the tournament,” a pleased Parrott noted. “It’s a whole new mind frame.”

“If she’ll play with me,” Parrott said as Gullickson fittingly replied:

“Yeah, for sure.”

Perfect conclusion from an unlikely duo took them all the way. One neither will ever forget.

Federer and Roddick to do it once more

A familiar face will be standing in Roger Federer’s way if he plans to make tennis history in Sunday’s Wimbledon final- his seventh straight.

American Andy Roddick made his first final at the All England Club since losing for a second straight year back in 2005 to Federer. After the five-time Wimbledon champ disposed of German Tommy Haas in a close three sets, the 26 year-old Roddick showed great form in besting England’s new hope Andy Murray- winning a tight four setter 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5).

Tremendous match by Andy in a Davis Cup atmosphere with most of Centre Court pulling for the 22 year-old Scot to finally erase the demons. Unfortunately, they’ll have to wait another year for him to try to become the first Great Brit to win there since Fred Perry (1936).

That was due to Roddick, who played arguably the finest match of his career outslugging Murray from the baseline while also being the aggressor winning 64 percent from the net (48 of 75) including a gutsy volley winner that saved a set point in the third breaker. It turned out to be the difference along with his powerful, accurate serve with him making 75 percent of first serves and winning 77 percent. Murray didn’t serve poorly by any means but only made 52 percent first serves even though he won a higher percentage (83).

The difference was a more focused Roddick was better on the bigger points. What was most impressive is that he came up with the kind of hitting from both sides of the racket we haven’t seen with him remaining steady hitting through the backhand while producing some sizzling crosscourt forehands to take control of points.

All the more stunning was that Murray outaced Roddick 25-21 and even finished with 12 more winners (Murray-76, Roddick-64) in what was one of the cleanest matches you’ll see. There weren’t many mistakes as Roddick had 24 unforced errors while Murray committed 20. This was just pure tennis with both guys competing at a very high level.

That Roddick stayed with the plan attacking the net with vigor when he had the opportunity proved to be the difference. He really picked his spots well and stuck his volleys. Sure. Murray passed him a bunch with some mesmerizing shots that make you believe he’ll be winning slams soon enough. Maybe even at this year’s U.S. Open. But the constant pressure from Andy made it tough on the best returner in the game.

That along with the huge serving kept the his 22 year-old younger foe from taking firm control. Each man broke twice with both able to trade 6-4 scores the first two sets. In the third’s opening game, Roddick dugout of love-40 frustrating Murray, who was broken a few games later. But with Andy serving for the set, he tightened and Murray broke back getting it to a tiebreaker. But the 2009 leader didn’t break saving set point with a mishit volley winner and then claiming the set on a well played point to pull within one of his third Wimbledon final.

The fourth set was even more dramatic with neither big man cracking as each held serve with more pressure on Roddick staying in the set twice to force another breaker. Early in it, he got a minibreak when Murray misfired drawing groans from the crowd. But the feisty Scot fought back coming up with a huge backhand crosscourt winner to save one match point. But just when it seemed he’d get it back even, a hustling Roddick got a wicked first serve back eventually getting in the point.

When the opportunity arose, he took it hitting a big forehand cross approach which a scattering Murray hit short into the net, giving the emotional American a date with destiny.

To be honest, the last couple of years, I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance to play for another Grand Slam title,” Roddick said holding back tears while model wife Brooklyn Decker cheered on her man. “Now I get to. It’s just a dream.

“If he serves like that, he’s got a chance against anyone,” Murray acknowledged after seeing his head-to-head record versus Roddick slip to 6-3.

Now, he’ll be the last one standing in the way of history with Federer looking to eclipse former American great Pete Sampras by capturing a record 15th grand slam. A year after Rafael Nadal broke his heart, can he do it against a close rival who he’s lost just two matches to in 20 times?

“I’ve had plenty of time to study his game, to understand his game,” Federer said. “He’s always played me also quite differently every single time.”

“Obviously you can’t really say enough to kind of signify what Roger’s career has been to this point,” Roddick said while appropriately adding:

“I’d love to delay it for another Grand Slam.”

It will be Federer’s 20th career Grand Slam final. Will it be lucky this Fourth of July weekend?

I’m very proud of all the records I’ve achieved, because I never thought I would be that successful as a kid. You know, I would have been happy winning a couple tournaments and maybe collecting Wimbledon,” the 27-year-old Federer said.

“It’s quite staggering.”