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Andy Roddick reaches clay court finals
Updated: 2005-04-24 10:33

Top-seeded Andy Roddick was broken twice in the first six games Saturday before charging back to dominate Jurgen Melzer 6-4, 6-2 and reach his fifth straight final at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships.

Top seeded Andy Roddick gives the Texas hook 'em sign after defeating seventh seed Jurgen Melzer, of Austria, 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston, Saturday, April 23, 2005. [AP]

In Sunday's title match, Roddick will face France's Sebastien Grosjean, who almost stumbled in the second set before rallying at the end for a 6-1, 7-6 (5) victory over Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti.

Roddick's string of five straight finals is the longest on the ATP tour since Russia's Yvegeny Kafelnikov reached the championship match at Moscow six times between 1996-2001, winning the last five.

"It's a ritual I enjoy and hope to continue," Roddick said.

Roddick was runner-up the past two years and took titles in 2001 and 2002. But it looked as if his string might end after he double-faulted twice in the second game and was broken after three deuces.

He was broken again in the sixth game, winning only one point, and falling behind 2-4.

"It was close, although it was 3-0 and I broke him again and it was 4-2," Melzer said. "I couldn't quite hold serve after that."

Roddick then warmed up to the challenge. He won 12 of the next 13 points over the next three games, breaking Melzer in the seventh and ninth games and served for the set in the 10th. Roddick hit a 135-mph ace to reach set point, then placed a drop shot that Melzer couldn't get over the net.

Melzer had more trouble in the second set. After he held to open the set, Melzer won only two points in the next five games before finally holding again in the seventh.

Last year, Roddick had trouble chasing down Melzer's drop shots and barely advanced with a 7-5, 7-6 (5) quarterfinal victory. The Austrian wasn't as successful this time, and Roddick chased down most of his attempts.

"I was about 0-for-26 last year when he hit that drop shot," Roddick said. "It was definitely something I was looking for. It's a shot you don't see that much. He got me on the first one and then I was able to get on them after that and on a couple of big points I was looking for it.

"Last year here, he made me look stupid all night long with that drop shot and I didn't want to look as stupid today."

Roddick, tied for fifth in the world rankings, was one of only two top-10 players at the clay court championships. Second-seeded Andre Agassi, ranked seventh, was beaten by Grosjean in the quarterfinals.

"I always love to play Andre," Roddick said. "It's not often you get to play one of your idols but it's hard to feel sorry for someone who's won every thing in their lifetime four times.

"So, I'm disappointed because I love playing him but you also hate to play him because of what he brings to the table. There are a lot of mixed emotions."

Grosjean bewildered Lapentti in the first set, which lasted just 27 minutes, and broke Lapentti in the opening game of the second set.

Lapentti fought his way back into the match and held a 5-4 lead when Grosjean overcame a set point in the 10th game, before holding for a 5-all tie.

Lapentti held a 4-2 lead in the tiebreaker before Grosjean started his winning charge with a backhand passing shot for a winner. He took the tiebreaker lead at 5-4 with another passing shot and moved into the finals when Lapentti double-faulted at the first match point.

Grosjean gained his first final since Queens Club last June, when he lost to Roddick.

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