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All grown up and in the semifinals

Published Sep. 1, 2005

Andy Roddick remembers when he was 6 or 7, at home in Florida watching Wimbledon telecasts of matches between Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg on Centre Court.

Becker and Edberg have retired, but Centre Court still is there. And today, Roddick will be, too, playing in his first Wimbledon semifinal.

"It's weird to think that there's some 9-year-old kid out there getting excited to wake up early and eat bacon and eggs and watch," Roddick said. "It's pretty cool."

Roddick and his opponent, Roger Federer of Switzerland, are talented youngsters long touted as future Grand Slam champions. Now each is on the verge of his first major final.

"It's a great chance for both of us," said Federer, 21. "It's going to be a match that everybody's been kind of waiting for. This is quite tough to judge, because we're quite young."

Federer is in his first Grand Slam semifinal. In 2001, he reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, beating Pete Sampras and ending the American's 31-match winning streak at the All England Club.

None of the remaining men owns a Grand Slam title. Fifth-seeded Roddick, 20, advanced to his second major semifinal this year, beating unseeded Jonas Bjorkman 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. Federer, seeded fourth, stopped No. 8 Sjeng Schalken 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. The other semi matches unseeded Mark Philippoussis against No. 13 Sebastien Grosjean.

Philippoussis hit 34 aces _ raising his tournament total to 153 _ and rallied past Alexander Popp 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 8-6. Grosjean disappointed British fans by beating Tim Henman 7-6 (10-8), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Both matches took two days to complete because of rain.

Henman again fell short in his bid to become the first Englishman to win Wimbledon since 1936.

"Perhaps my chances are getting less," said Henman, 28. "It won't stop me from coming back and trying."

Henman is one of the few players to have reached the quarterfinals seven times. That was little consolation.

"Perhaps I should see some achievement, but right now I don't see a lot," he said.

Roddick has been on the verge of a Grand Slam breakthrough before. At the Australian Open in January, he beat Younes El Aynaoui in a five-hour quarterfinal that included a 21-19 fifth set, the longest in Grand Slam history.

Two days later, weary and hampered by a swollen right wrist, he lost to Rainer Schuettler.

"I didn't feel too great," Roddick said. "I had a lot stacked against me. I wasn't going in really thinking I could win, maybe. I'll be a little bit fresher than I was in Australia."

Roddick has lost one set in five rounds, and he needed just 92 minutes to beat Bjorkman. The big-swinging American is 10-0 since hiring Andre Agassi's former coach, Brad Gilbert, last month. All those victories have been on grass, where low, unpredictable bounces can make his 125-mph serve almost unreturnable.

Roddick has lost three of 79 service games at Wimbledon. During a stretch of seven service games against Bjorkman, he lost two points total _ one on a double fault.

Those are the kind of serving statistics seven-time champion Pete Sampras used to compile at Wimbledon. With Sampras in semiretirement and no former Grand Slam winner in the final four, Roddick is favored by oddsmakers to take the title.

"It makes it a little bit intriguing, a little bit exciting maybe for outsiders _ the prospect of a new Grand Slam champion," Roddick said. "But I play probably the best player not to win a Grand Slam (today)."