Roddick gets past Hewitt in 5-set grind

Published 1:47 am Thursday, July 2, 2009

WIMBLEDON, England — This one meant so much to Andy Roddick.

Because of the stakes: a return to Wimbledon’s semifinals. Because of the opponent: 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt. And because of the circumstances: a five-set grind that began under a bright sun and concluded in shadows, 3 hours, 50 minutes later.

When it was over, having finally figured out a way to get past Hewitt 6-3, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4, Roddick let out a sigh and raised a fist, then threw his racket down, sat in his changeover chair and covered his face with his hands.

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‘‘A mixture of happiness, of relief. In your mind, you’re kind of trying to stay the course for four hours, constantly figuring out what you’re going to do,’’ said Roddick, who swatted 43 aces in Wednesday’s quarterfinals at the All England Club. ‘‘Your mind is just racing.’’

He hadn’t been to the final four at Wimbledon since 2005; even lost in the second round a year ago. He hadn’t won a five-setter at any Grand Slam tournament in 2 1/2 years. But Roddick came through in the crunch, saving three break points while trailing 2-1 in the fifth set, before earning the decisive break in a 14-point game to go ahead 5-4.

‘‘It’s going to pay big dividends, winning a tight match like this,’’ said Roddick’s coach, Larry Stefanki. ‘‘He hasn’t done that in a long time.’’

Roddick-Hewitt was the only quarterfinal pitting two men who have been ranked No. 1, and the only one involving two men who have won a major championship. It also was the most riveting contest, not to mention the longest.

‘‘It certainly wasn’t short on drama,’’ Roddick said. ‘‘It was tough from a mental standpoint, because Lleyton wasn’t going away, and there were kind of a lot of ebbs and flows.’’

Next up for the No. 6-seeded Roddick: a semifinal against No. 3 Andy Murray, who beat 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.