28th seed Joachim Johansson swaps power shots in a five-set shocker.
By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published September 10, 2004
NEW YORK - In a shocking turn of events at the U.S. Open late Thursday, defending champion and world No. 2 Andy Roddick was eliminated by a player only diehards had heard of before the tournament.
Joachim Johansson, a 22-year-old Swede who matched Roddick's power all night, did the unthinkable by breaking Roddick, whom many believe has the sport's best serve, in the deciding game to pull out a 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 6-4 quarterfinal win.
When asked afterward if the moment was the biggest of his career, Johansson didn't hesitate. "Yes," he said.
Roddick's defeat left the field without an American-born entrant in the semifinals for the first time since 1986. Earlier, sixth-seeded Andre Agassi lost to top-seeded Roger Federer.
Johansson, the 28th seed, will play fourth-seeded Lleyton Hewitt in one semifinal Saturday. Federer faces fifth-seeded Tim Henman in the other.
The defining statistic in the Roddick-Johansson match: break point chances. Johansson was 3-of-5; Roddick was 3-of-15. That allowed Johansson to overcome 49 unforced errors, more than double what Roddick had.
Federer's victory had its own drama.
It was tough to say which gave the world's No. 1 player more trouble, a confident and determined Agassi or the fierce winds that ripped through Arthur Ashe Stadium. In the end, neither could stop Federer, who won 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in a memorable and mentally taxing match.
"Today was more play to win than to play well," Federer said.
The match, which began Wednesday but was delayed after three sets by rain, tested not only Federer's remarkable skill but his patience. The 34-year-old Agassi made Federer work, and the winds made the Swiss star look at times like a weekend hack. "You would touch the ball and it would fly a long, long way," Federer said. "We couldn't play our games. Usually, we are guys who look for the winner, you know, play aggressive. But we could not play this way. Confidence can slip away very quickly in those conditions."
Henman defeated 22nd-seeded Dominik Hrbaty 6-1, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 to reach his first Open semifinal. The 30-year-old British star had never gotten beyond the fourth round. "I'm very, very excited about it," Henman said. "Playing Federer is going to be a special match. I've just got to keep playing the tennis that I have been playing. I've got to play my style. There's no question this is the toughest task in tennis right now, playing Federer."
Hewitt thoroughly beat unseeded Tommy Haas 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in a 1-hour, 38-minute clinic. The 2001 champ extended his winning streak to 15 matches, committing only 10 unforced errors and making the wind almost seem like a nonfactor.
"Obviously, you had to go out there with the right mindset," Hewitt said. "You had to be very patient, mentally tough out there and not let it affect you. I tried to stay as positive as I could. I took my time when I needed to and played percentage tennis. I was happy with the way I played."
Federer won the Australian Open and Wimbledon earlier this year, but will be making his first Open semifinal appearance. It almost didn't happen. Federer not only mis-hit shots, he missed the ball altogether on more than one occasion. He dumped volleys into the net, sprayed forehands long and backhands wide, something fans - and opponents - were not accustomed to seeing.
Federer's consolation? Agassi had troubles of his own. Although the two-time Open champ made fewer wind-related mistakes than Federer, a few untimely errors in the final set cost him the match.
Both players held serve in the deciding fifth until Agassi was broken to make it 3-5. He led 40-30, but smacked a shot into the net. Later, with another chance to end the game, Agassi was victimized by a perfect Federer lob.
"I told myself, "Maybe this could be the shot that makes the difference,' " Federer said.
In the final game, Federer lost one point.
Afterward, Agassi was asked about his future. Friends of the eight-time major champion say they have stopped guessing when the tennis icon will retire, and Thursday he said nothing to indicate the match with Federer would be his last.
"My game plan is to play until I can't do it," Agassi said.