Roddick reaches first Slam semifinal
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Andy Roddick won one of the longest matches of the Open era, beating Younes El Aynaoui in a fifth set that ended 21-19 to reach the Australian Open semifinals.
Roddick defeated the Moroccan 4-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19 on Wednesday night in a match lasting 4 hours, 59 minutes. The exhausted players walked off the court hand in hand.
"Strategy was out the door ... it was just pure fighting,'' Roddick said.
At 2:23, it was the longest fifth set in the Open era, which began in 1968. It topped Mark Philippoussis' 20-18 win over Sjeng Schalken in the third round at Wimbledon in 2000. The Australian Open does not have tiebreakers in the fifth set.
It was longest men's singles match at the Australian Open since tiebreaker sets were introduced for Grand Slam events in 1971, beating the mark set by Yannick Noah of France in his 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 16-14 win over Roger Smith in 1988. The Noah victory went 73 games; this went 83.
The longest Australian Open match in terms of time was 5:11 -- Boris Becker's victory over Omar Camporese in 1991. The longest Grand Slam match was 5:31 when Alex Carretja beat Hernan Gumy in the third round of the 1998 French Open.
With the Roddick-El Aynaoui quarterfinal at 19-all in the fifth set, both players handed their rackets to ballboys for a quick rest as the kids hit a few balls.
The match ended when El Aynaoui netted a forehand volley following an exchange at the net. The pair embraced over the net. They took a deep bow and left the court together.
"My respect level for him just grew and grew through the match,'' Roddick said. "We could see each other 10 years down the line and know we shared something special.''
Roddick, a 20-year-old American, becomes the youngest semifinalist at Melbourne Park in 11 years, advancing to the last four at a major for the first time.
He'll meet Rainer Schuettler in the semis after the German ousted Wimbledon runner-up David Nalbandian 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-0 in the other quarterfinal.
Roddick had lost in the quarterfinals twice at the U.S. Open, but had never advanced this far in a Grand Slam outside his home country.
Roddick was the youngest player into quarters this time, rallying from two sets down against Russian Davis Cup star Mikhail Youzhney.
El Aynaoui, seeded 18th, was aiming to be the first Moroccan into a Grand Slam semifinal. He advanced to the last eight with an upset of top-ranked Lleyton Hewitt.
"Younes is a class act and I'm truly humbled by this victory,'' Roddick said.
The 31-year-old El Aynaoui had a match point on Roddick's serve in the 10th game of the fifth set and Roddick served for the set in the 22nd game of the decider, but was broken.
"My legs were feeling a little bit heavy at the end,'' El Aynaoui said. "Andy kept serving really hard. I thought I had him but he just kept a very high level. I was looking for an opportunity but he kept it all the way and I congratulate him. ... Even if I lost I'm happy.''
Had the Moroccan made it to the semis, this would have been the first time in the Open era that three players in their 30s reached the final four at a major.
With Andre Agassi, 32, and Wayne Ferreira, 31, already in the semis, the Australian Open had been shaping as a veterans' event.
In the other men's quarterfinal, Nalbandian sprayed groundstrokes and missed drop volleys and lobs as he was ousted by Schuettler.
Schuettler reached the quarterfinals for the first time at a major when he beat James Blake in four sets and went a step further with a drubbing of the 21-year-old Argentine.
"It's like a dream come true. First time I'm in the semis,'' said Schuettler, who is in his 18th Grand Slam tournament. "I won it in four, it's unbelievable.''
Schuettler gained a free pass to the fourth round when Marat Safin pulled out with an injured wrist.
"Maybe I was lucky in the third round, but I'm in the semis,'' Schuettler said.Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
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