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Roddick cruises, Hewitt battles into semis
Updated: 2005-01-27 11:11

His place in the Australian Open semifinals secured, Andy Roddick was off to the air-conditioned comfort of the casino and hoping for luck at the blackjack table. He couldn't have been dealt a better hand.

Lleyton Hewitt, of Australia, third seed, yells in celebration after defeating David Nalbandian, of Argentina, ninth seed in their mens singles quarterfinals match, on Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2005. [Reuters]
The 22-year-old American was leading 6-3, 7-5, 4-1 when Nikolay Davydenko retired from their quarterfinal after just 1 hour, 35 minutes Wednesday because he was having trouble breathing.

That was less time than Roddick's semifinal opponent, Lleyton Hewitt, needed for the fifth set alone before getting past Argentina's David Nalbandian 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 3-6, 10-8 in 4 hours, 5 minutes.

"I don't have many miles on me so far in this tournament," Roddick said. "That could end up being a good thing."

Hewitt has spent more than 14 1/2 hours playing through five matches, almost double Roddick's court time.

But Roddick knows what Hewitt's been through.

He reached the Australian Open semifinals in 2003, losing to Rainer Schuettler after he had ended a quarterfinal victory over Morocco's Younes El Aynaoui with the longest fifth set (in games) in Grand Slam history at 21-19.

"The only other time I got to this stage at the Australian Open, I felt like I was going to fall over walking out for my semifinal match," Roddick said.

Hewitt, even hobbled by a sore hip, didn't expect to be falling over against anyone.

Asked if he doubted himself against Nalbandian, whom he beat in a lopsided 2002 Wimbledon final, Hewitt replied confidently: "No, mate. Did you think I was out?"

One spectator responded in a genuine Aussie twang: "You're a legend, Lleyton."

Hewitt's marathon win ensured the top four seeded men made the semifinals at the Australian Open for the first time since 1988, and at any Grand Slam tournament for the first time since Wimbledon in 1995.

"It's the top four players in the world playing the semifinals here ... so you're going to have to play your best tennis," Hewitt said. "And you're going to have to have enough petrol in the tank."

No. 1 Roger Federer and No. 4 Marat Safin met in the Australian final last year and face off again in the semifinals Thursday night. No. 2 Roddick and No. 3 Hewitt play Friday night.

The women's semifinals on Thursday match top-ranked Lindsay Davenport against France's Nathalie Dechy, and fourth-seeded Maria Sharapova and No. 7 Serena Williams in a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final, won by the 17-year-old Sharapova.

Davenport looked frustrated at times as she committed 40 unforced errors before overcoming Australia's Olympic bronze medalist Alicia Molik, the No. 10 seed, 6-4, 4-6, 9-7 in the quarters. Dechy ousted No. 12 Patty Schnyder 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 to gain her first Grand Slam semifinal.

"There were a lot of ups and downs out here," Davenport said. "I felt I was really lucky — after failing to finish it off at 5-4. She had a lot of momentum and I'm not sure exactly how I was able to get it back."

While both women's quarterfinals lasted exactly the same time — 2:33 — Davenport then headed back out to advance to the doubles final with Corina Morariu in a three-set semifinal victory.

"It's my partner's birthday," said Davenport, bidding for her first major singles title since winning here in 2000, "and I feel fine."

Hewitt lived up to his "Aussie battler" tag, describing the fifth set as a dogfight.

The right hip he hurt in his five-set, fourth-round win over Spain's Rafael Nadal had Hewitt limping again after the second set against Nalbandian. He compensated so much that he needed treatment on his left thigh during a medical timeout after the fourth set.

"I gave everything I had out there," Hewitt said. "Yet again I was able to come through in the clutch situations."

While Roddick has had low mileage at Melbourne Park, Hewitt still thinks he has enough left to win their semifinal. He's 4-1 against Roddick and hasn't lost to him on a hard court.

"He's got an advantage: He's in bed already tonight," Hewitt said. "But, you know, come Friday at 7:30, I'll be ready to go."

Roddick has spent his down time at the casino and figures he's won more than $4,000 so far. He planned to watch Hewitt's match later Wednesday on a television set next to the blackjack table.

Hewitt opened a 2-0 lead with a break in the first and two more in the second set against Nalbandian.

But as fireworks cracked loudly over Rod Laver Arena from Australia Day celebrations at the nearby Federation Square, Hewitt lost four consecutive service games and Nalbandian rallied to tie at two sets apiece.

Hewitt dug in and didn't face a break point in the deciding set before finally breaking Nalbandian's serve in the 17th game. Hewitt then held at love, rifling a forehand winner down the line at 11:53 p.m. — seven minutes before the end of the national holiday.

There were fireworks on the court, too. Hewitt and Nalbandian stared in disbelief and argued with umpire Mohamed Lahyani over an unusually high number of overrules.

Nalbandian seemed to be irritated by Hewitt's cries of "Come on!" and when Hewitt brushed shoulders with him during the crossover at 3-2 in the second set.

Nalbandian glared at Hewitt, who reeled off the next three games.

"He brought it on himself a little bit," said Hewitt, explaining the collision. "He sort of propped and waited for a bit of a shoulder, I think."

Nalbandian said there was no bad blood.

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