- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2005

Andy Roddick nearly pitched a shutout with his serve in the second set of yesterday’s semifinal against Paradorn Srichaphan. Instead, he was happy to settle for a spot in today’s Legg Mason Tennis Classic final.

The top-seeded Roddick surrendered only four points on his serve as he rolled past the 13th-seeded Paradorn 7-6 (4), 6-2 to reach his first Legg Mason final since he won the event in 2001.

He was especially dominant in the second set, which took a brisk 29 minutes. Roddick, whose first-serve percentage is an impressive 72 percent over four matches, had won all 12 points on his serve in the set before yielding one in the final game.

“I wish I would have known that going into the last game. I’ve never pitched a shutout in a set,” Roddick said. “I feel good. I feel like I’m in a groove. I constantly harp on percentages and first-serve percentage, and this week I’m up over 70, which is a pretty high number, especially if you serve big.”

Roddick will join James Blake in Legg Mason’s first all-American final since Andre Agassi defeated Jim Grabb in 1990. Blake continued his impressive run with a 6-4, 6-3 defeat of No.10 Tomas Berdych in the other semifinal.

Roddick will need a complete performance to claim the title this afternoon at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center. But he had nearly all aspects of his game working against Paradorn and seems poised to add a Legg Mason championship to his victories at San Jose, Houston and Queen’s Club earlier this year.

Paradorn, who again enjoyed the support of a rowdy, red-clad Thai cheering section, realized from the start he would have trouble with Roddick’s potent serve, and he figured he would probably have to win a tiebreaker or two to advance. The first set unfolded about as well as it could for the Thai star, who denied two break points on his way to a tiebreaker.

Roddick went up a mini-break at 4-2, but Paradorn earned it back when his shot popped high off the let cord before falling onto Roddick’s side. The American rallied with Paradorn serving at 4-5, scrambling from one end of the baseline to the other before zipping a backhand winner up the baseline. Roddick took the next point as well to secure his first tiebreaker victory in three tries for the week.

Things got worse for Paradorn at the start of the second set. He yielded a break point to Roddick in the first game and sent the top seed’s return wide, waving his racket in disbelief at the realization his afternoon probably would end soon.

“If you play [6-foot-10 Ivo] Karlovic or Roddick or someone who has a big serve, you always have to concentrate on your serve,” Paradorn said. “If you lose serve, you’ll always have trouble getting it back.”

Said Roddick: “Getting a break right after you already have momentum from winning a tiebreaker, I’ve been there before. It’s mentally tough to recover from if you’re the other guy. I felt that took a little of the wind out of his sails, especially considering he’d won three points on my serve. I was in control of the match at that point.”

Roddick didn’t loosen his grip, holding Paradorn at love on his next two service games before earning another break. After crushing a 141 mph ace in another perfect game, Roddick finished off the match at 5-2 with a forehand near the net that Paradorn could only return wide.

Roddick, who had 13 aces and defeated Paradorn for the sixth time in seven meetings, said he had “turned the corner” for the week after needing three sets to dispatch Juan Ignacio Chela and Karlovic the previous two days. That’s hardly a compelling thought for Blake, since Roddick’s seemingly impenetrable serve makes him the favorite today — and one of the likely contenders in every hardcourt tournament over the next month, including the U.S. Open.

“I don’t want to get high and mighty about it because I still have one [match] to go,” Roddick said, “but I’ve been feeling good about it.”

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