Agassi, Roddick tossed from Open

Posted: Friday, September 10, 2004

NEW YORK Andy Roddick ran into a bold, bigger version of himself at the U.S. Open, and 6-foot-6 Joachim Johansson sent the defending champion home.

Roddick was upset 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 6-4 Thursday night by another 22-year-old brandishing a powerful serve and forehand, but also someone who's won just one title, was playing in his first major quarterfinal, and who started the year ranked 113th.

Not only that, but Johansson never had played a five-set match. Yet there he was, smacking serves at 141 mph, outslugging Roddick from the baseline, and ending the match by breaking the game's best server.

''I gave it everything I had. I thought I was pretty well prepared. It's disheartening. It's disappointing. But I'll recover,'' Roddick said. ''Losses like this, they make me hungrier.''

Coupled with Andre Agassi's loss earlier Thursday, it is the first time since 1986 that no American man reached the Open semifinals.

Put Roddick's defeat in the same category as Al Gore's in the 2000 election: Roddick won the equivalent of the popular vote, taking far more points overall: 152 to 128. But he went just 3-for-15 on break chances, while Johansson was 3-for-5 in that department.

''That means I won the right points,'' Johansson said. ''I don't know how, but it was very good for me.''

Both pounded aces, with Johansson finishing with 30 to raise his tournament-leading total to 109, while Roddick had 34.

After Johansson was nearly perfect in the first two sets, Roddick took over Nos. 3 and 4, making a total of three unforced errors while going on a run in which he won 44 of 46 points on his serve, including 29 straight.

''I was in a lot of games. I felt I had the momentum, and then all it takes is a little bit of time and things just change,'' Roddick said. ''Let's give some credit to him. The guy serves out of a tree.''

Far less surprising was Agassi's exit earlier in the day. That's because the eight-time major champ was up against No. 1 Roger Federer, who won 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in a quarterfinal suspended by rain early in the fourth set the night before and wrapped up in swirling winds that approached 40 mph.

Federer, the Swiss star, is two wins from becoming the first man since 1988 to win three Grand Slam titles in a year.

He'll face No. 5 Tim Henman of Britain, while Johansson goes up against 2001 Open champion Lleyton Hewitt of Australia whose sister Jaslyn just happens to be the 28th-seeded Swede's girlfriend.

That should make for interesting dinner conversation.

''She can pick the boyfriend, but she can't pick the brother, so she'll go for me,'' Johansson said.

In the final game, No. 2 Roddick fell behind love-40 with a double-fault, saved two match points thanks to huge serves, then sailed a backhand long on the third. Up at the net for a postmatch handshake, the 6-2 Roddick reached up to tap Johansson on the chest. The two know each other well: They reached the 18-and-under doubles final as a team at the 2000 French Open.

''To see him kind of progress a little late is surprising to me,'' Roddick said. ''The guy's got weapons. He's still developing.''

Johansson inherited some of his ability: His father, Leif, was Bjorn Borg's teammate on Sweden's 1974 Davis Cup team. And little Joachim surely, he was little at one time got to practice with Borg as a teen.

Roddick found himself playing the way his opponents often do, standing way behind the baseline, resorting to guesswork on returns, and hitting to the backhand. After dumping one return into the net, Roddick flipped his racket in the air and lamented, ''Oh, my God!''

He seemed generally uncomfortable early and late, arguing the occasional call, questioning a line judge's positioning, and standing with hands on hips as if he didn't want to leave the court for what turned out to be a 55-minute rain delay right after he was broken to 3-2 in the first set.

When they returned to action, Roddick missed a backhand on the first point, then pointed and snapped ''Sit down!'' at spectators slow getting to their seats. Johansson went on to win the first set with a running forehand winner down the line.

At one moment in the fifth set, while Roddick was needling the chair umpire, his coach, Brad Gilbert, pointed both index fingers to his temples. The message was clear: ''Keep your head in the game.''

Johansson, meanwhile, showed tremendous poise for someone with a 4-5 career record at Slams before last week.

In the second set, Roddick had Johansson at love-40 in the second game, but the Swede saved the break points with a 132 mph ace, a 110 mph ace and a 133 mph service winner. In the next game, Roddick took a 40-love lead on his serve and lost the next five points, with Johansson seizing a 2-1 edge with a forehand.

Serving for the second set, Johansson fell behind love-40 again and got out of it again, finishing with the flourish of a 136 mph service winner. The match was 75 minutes old, and already Roddick had lost two sets (he lost zero all tournament before Thursday), had been broken twice, and had gone 0-for-7 on his break chances.

Roddick walked to his chair, slammed his racket down and looked up at Gilbert while the partisan fans sat in stunned silence.

Johansson couldn't possibly keep playing this well, could he?

And then, 56 minutes later, it was two sets all. When Roddick broke for a 2-0 edge in the third set by closing an 18-stroke point with a volley winner, he rocked back on his heels, pumping both arms and screaming, as much to the fairly subdued crowd as to himself: ''Come on! Let's go!''

Hours earlier, Agassi sat alone, starting blankly at an Arthur Ashe Stadium doorway, the silence punctured by the rustling leaves on nearby trees. Soon, he'd walk through that exit, his U.S. Open done. In those idle moments on a lobby bench, there was plenty for the 34-year-old Agassi to contemplate.

''My game plan is to play until I can't do it,'' Agassi said. ''I certainly want to be able to assess my level of play, and at some point my level of play will dictate my decisions. But as of right now, I'm trying to win tournaments, and I believe that with that focus, I can still do that.''

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