- The Washington Times - Friday, July 4, 2003

WIMBLEDON, England — Six sets to go.

Focused and efficient as a ball machine — albeit one in a bent-brim ballcap — Andy Roddick continued his determined march toward a first major title, defeating Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in yesterday’s rain-delayed Wimbledon quarterfinals.

“I’m not satisfied yet,” said Roddick, the No.5 seed, who flashed a quick smile and gave the Court1 crowd a thumbs-up after the match. “I want to keep going.”

With the victory, Roddick earned a place in today’s semifinals against Switzerland’s Roger Federer, a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 winner over Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands. Federer, the No.4 seed, snapped Pete Sampras’s 31-match Wimbledon winning streak two years ago and is in his first major semifinal.

“[Hes] an extremely good player, probably the best player not to win a Grand Slam right now in tennis,” Roddick said. “I have to take care of that.”

In the other half of the draw, France’s Sebastien Grosjean will meet Australia’s Mark Philippoussis. No12 seed Grosjean topped British No.10 seed Tim Henman in four sets, while Philippoussis needed five to dispatch Germany’s Alexander Popp.

Long touted as a Slam-winning successor to Sampras and Andre Agassi, Roddick has emerged as the odds-on tournament favorite at 20. With good reason.

Already armed with a permit-worthy forehand and a serve that reaches an ATP-record 149 mph, Roddick has shown a workmanlike maturity in his four Wimbledon wins, dropping a single set while avoiding the emotional meltdowns that have plagued him in previous majors.

“Man, I’m not trying to think too much,” he said. “I’m just trying to let it happen. If things are going good, they’re going good.”

Speaking of good: Following a first-round flameout at the French Open, Roddick dropped his former coach in favor of Brad Gilbert, the cerebral former player who guided Agassi for much of the 1990s.

Roddick hasn’t lost a match since.

“[Brads] been great,” Roddick said. “He kind of simplifies things. It helps.”

Roddick didn’t need much help against Bjorkman, a 31-year-old serve-and-volley specialist who was gunning to become the oldest Wimbledon semifinalist since John McEnroe at 33 in 1992.

In their only previous meeting, Bjorkman scratched out a straight-sets grass court victory in Nottingham last year. But this time around, Roddick was in charge, winning five of 11 break points and hitting 42 winners to Bjorkman’s 24.

Though Roddick didn’t blow Bjorkman entirely off the court from the service line — he hit 13 aces, and his fastest serve topped out at 135 mph — he was brutally efficient, yielding a single break.

With Bjorkman coming off said break and serving at 2-all in the first set, Roddick broke back with a series of perfectly placed lobs and passes.

“He came up with some brilliant shots and managed to be ahead,” Bjorkman said. “And from then on, I never really got back in the game.”

On a day that the Times of London lamented the decline of serve-and-volley tennis, Bjorkman added a living addendum, punching a number of errant volleys. The Swede won 30 of 60 net approaches — ominous numbers for a player who makes his living at the net.

“I didn’t have a good rhythm out there,” Bjorkman said. “It was a struggle to find it. It was one of those days.”

Henman could relate. Under gloomy summer skies that only an Englishman could love, it was the Frenchman Grosjean who looked surprisingly at home, needing 32 minutes to close out a match that began Wednesday.

In losing, Henman ensured that Britain — so enamored with “Henmania” — will have to wait at least another year for a homegrown champion. Fred Perry was the last British man to win the title in 1936.

“I think perhaps my chances are getting less,” said Henman, a semifinalist in four of the last five Wimbledons. “It still won’t stop me coming back and trying.”

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