- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2003

WIMBLEDON, England — Andy Roddick knows a thing or two about big serves.

And to hear him tell it, so does Mark Philippoussis.

“As long as you have a serve like his, you’re going to be in matches,” Roddick said. “He’s always had the game.”

Behind a blistering barrage of grass-scorching aces, Philippoussis blasted his way into the Wimbledon quarterfinals yesterday, topping Andre Agassi 6-3, 2-6, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 in a fourth-round match.

“There were a lot of moments there where either one of us could have sort of taken the match,” Agassi said. “And he ended up doing it in the end.”

Joining Philippoussis is No.5 seed Roddick, who dropped his first set of the tournament in a hard-fought 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over No.12 seed Paradorn Srichaphan.

Roddick next faces Jonas Bjorkman, a winner over Max Mirnyi in four sets.

“There are eight guys still in it at the end of the day,” said Roddick, tabbed by oddsmakers as the Wimbledon favorite. “I’m just one of them. I’m just going to try and win three sets in two days. That’s the game plan. I’m sticking to it.”

Also advancing to the quarterfinals were No.4 seed Roger Federer and No.10 seed Tim Henman. Federer topped Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4 while Henman stopped No.6 seed David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-3.

In other fourth-round matches, No.8 seed Sjeng Schalken beat No.9 seed Rainer Schuettler in straight sets and Alexander Popp defeated Olivier Rochus in four sets.

The match between No.3 seed Juan Carlos Ferrero and No.13 seed Sebastien Grosjean was called on account of darkness, with Grosjean leading 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (2).

For Philippoussis, a 27-year-old Australian, outlasting the ultra-fit Agassi marked a long-awaited — and oft-delayed — return to form.

A former U.S. Open finalist, Philippoussis has spent most of the last two seasons battling back from a series of left-knee injuries, the most recent coming at last year’s Open.

Once ranked as high as No.11 in the world, Philippoussis entered Wimbledon unseeded but dangerous given the percussive serving ability that has earned him the nickname “Scud,” a reference to the Iraqi surface-to-surface missiles made famous in the first Gulf War.

Against Agassi, Philippoussis more than lived up to his reputation, pounding 46 aces — tying Goran Ivanisevic — and five service winners. All told, he fired 79 serves that weren’t returned — no small feat against Agassi, perhaps the game’s best returner — and won an absurd 82 percent of his first serve points.

“The great thing about the serve, you’ve got the ball in your hands,” Philippoussis said. “You’re in control. Today, I had great rhythm out there.”

Even so, Agassi didn’t make it easy. He hit a lurching forehand lob to earn an early break in the second set, then crushed a crosscourt return winner to win the third-set tiebreak.

Up 4-3 and serving in the fifth set, Philippoussis fought off a pair of break points, the second coming on a double-fault. Undaunted, he hit an ace wide, a service winner down the middle and another ace wide.

On match point, Agassi sent a return into the net. Philippoussis lifted his arms to the sky — as much in relief as in triumph.

“All I was telling myself was I’ve been working really hard, with my fitness trainer in San Diego [where Philippoussis moved last September],” Philippoussis said. “We’ve done some crazy drills where he’s nearly made me cry. I just thought back and said, ‘Stay strong. All that work was for this.’”

Roddick certainly had to work against Paradorn, a hard-hitting native of Thailand. At 1-1 in the third set, Roddick fought off four break points, one with a backhand winner that just caught the corner, another when Paradorn tapped a return into the net.

Roddick ripped a service winner to escape the game. From there, Paradorn unraveled — first punching a forehand into the net to surrender a break, then slamming his racket in frustration when Roddick took a 4-2 lead.

“He definitely could have taken the match over had he gotten one of those breaks,” Roddick said. “A little bit to do with me, a little bit to do with him. I held, and he didn’t play a very good game later on in the set. He was missing balls. I didn’t do much to break him. You know, I didn’t mind it.”

Like Philippoussis, Roddick closed out his match on serve, firing two forehand winners and a pair of aces.

“He’s moving well, and he’s serving well,” Paradorn said. “He just needs one break from his opponent. And then he makes his games easy. I think he’s a good one to pick.”

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