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Roddick downs Youzhny, braces for Federer in final

The No. 9 seed is ''simplifying'' things for the daunting task ahead.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published September 10, 2006


NEW YORK - Andy Roddick smacked a 135 mph service winner, leaned back and screamed, then nodded his head as he jogged to the sideline, knowing he was one set from a U.S. Open final showdown against Roger Federer.

Jimmy Connors, Roddick's new guru, stood and applauded, enjoying his pupil's work. And 42 minutes later, Roddick's day was done, finally subduing Mikhail Youzhny 6-7 (5-7), 6-0, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 Saturday in the semifinals.

Now comes a far tougher task: facing No. 1-ranked Federer, the first man since Rod Laver in 1961-62 to reach six consecutive Grand Slam finals. The two-time defending champion, from Switzerland, flashed his many talents in a 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 victory over No. 7 Nikolay Davydenko in the first semifinal.

"I'm just going to go out and throw it all at him. I'm just going to go for it. Just play the way I have. We've been simplifying it," said Roddick, 18-1 since pairing with five-time Open champion Connors this summer. "If the guy plays too well, then he plays too well. But I'm not going to lay down."

Easier said than done, of course. Federer is 10-1 against Roddick, including wins in the 2004 and 2005 Wimbledon finals.

"It's obviously more difficult here, because of the crowd and . . . playing an American and everything," Federer said. "And the only time I lost against him was on hardcourt. Wasn't here, but was on hard court."

Roddick won the 2003 U.S. Open and finished that year at No. 1, but he's seeking his second major championship. He was stunned in the first round at Flushing Meadows a year ago, part of a crisis of confidence that led to a 10-month title drought and a brief slip out of the top 10.

Ah, how things have changed.

"He has more game," Connors said. "He does a few things different and a few things better."

It all starts with the serve, of course, and after one 139 mph offering in the final set, Roddick yelled out: "Too big!"

"I've been in a groove this whole tournament," Roddick said. "I feel like I'm hitting my backhand pretty solid here, even using it as a weapon up the line, believe it or not. I'm returning okay. Mentally, I'm in a good place right now."

All of that was on display against Youzhny, who was trying to become, at No. 54, the lowest-ranked U.S. Open finalist since the ATP computer ratings began in 1973.

The first five points showed how far Roddick has come. He won them all, and what was impressive was the sequence: He hit a 123 mph ace, hung in on a 14-stroke exchange until Youzhny made an error, laced a volley winner, unleashed his big forehand for a winner to hold serve at love, then began Game 2 by charging the net behind a return.

The No. 9 seed wound up losing that first set, distracted during the tiebreaker when Youzhny held up a hand to ask for time right before serves.

Roddick was limited to 14 aces, but the most revealing statistic was this: He played for nearly three hours and wound up with 18 unforced errors. Youzhny had 48.