Roddick Into Cincy Semifinals

August 19, 2006 02:40 PM

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By JOE KAY, AP Sports Writer

MASON, Ohio (AP) -- Andy Roddick sent a 138 mph message to everyone who has written him off.

Powering up his vintage serve-and-volley style, Roddick overwhelmed Chile's Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday night to reach the finals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.

It looked and felt like old times.

"I haven't felt like this on a tennis court in a long time," he said.

The American is back on the attack just in time for the U.S. Open. He dropped out of the picture this summer, when he was sidelined by injury and hearing suggestions that he was a thing of the past at age 23.

"I haven't had good form the first six months of this year," said Roddick, who hasn't won a tournament this year. "But they were talking about my career in terms of it being finished almost, which was surprising to me."

The overpowering victory set up a rematch with Juan Carlos Ferrero, the player he beat for his 2003 U.S. Open title. The unseeded Ferrero had a breakthrough of his own Saturday, beating hobbled fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4.

Afterward, he looked ahead to a rematch with Roddick. That long-ago loss at Flushing Meadows is still fresh in his mind.

"Big memory of that match," Ferrero said. "His serve was unbelievable."

It's awfully good again.

Roddick was playing well when he strained his left side last month, forcing him to drop out of one tournament and skip the next two. He has gotten better each match in Cincinnati, despite lingering soreness in his side.

On Saturday, his serve-and-attack ran at full speed. Roddick served a dozen aces -- one registered at 138 mph -- and won 29 points off his 32 first serves, a mark of domination. He faced only one break point in the match.

When he broke Gonzalez for the second time to close out the first set in a tidy 34 minutes, Roddick pumped his fist and screamed, "Yes!" By the end of the match, Gonzalez was tossing his racket and mumbling to himself as he shuffled around the court, unable to figure out how to solve that serve.

"Andy was serving really good, and he didn't let me do anything," Gonzalez said.

Roddick hasn't won an ATP tournament since Lyon last October. He has been in only one other final this year, losing to James Blake at Indianapolis last month -- the start of his turnaround.

The 26-year-old Ferrero also is on the rebound. Three years after his best moments, he feels ready for a few more.

The Spaniard hasn't played a title match since last October, when he lost in Vienna. He hasn't won an ATP tournament since 2003, the year of his greatest moments -- a French Open championship, runner-up to Roddick at the U.S. Open, a world No. 1 ranking.

"I think I'm playing at the same level as when I was No. 1," Ferrero said. "I'm very relaxed on court. I don't have to think too much to make a point."

He made his point in the quarterfinals, pulling off one of the tournament's two major upsets. He beat No. 2 Rafael Nadal in straight sets, two days after Britain's Andy Murray stunned No. 1 Roger Federer and ended his 55-match winning streak in North America.

For the first time in more than a year, a tournament featuring both Federer and Nadal will be won by someone else. The last 15 times the duo played in the same tournament, one of them won it.

This one will go to someone who hasn't hoisted a trophy in a long time.

Ferrero has spent the last two years trying to rejoin the game's elite. After his run to the top in 2003, he got chicken pox and a wrist injury that set him back in 2004. He dropped as low as No. 98 early last year, before starting the difficult climb back.

"You work hard and when you're still not having good results, it's tough," said Ferrero, sure to move up next week from his ranking at 31. "You think it's never going to come."

He finally reached a final by taking advantage of Robredo, who was bothered by a stiff leg. He got a massage after the first set, but had trouble moving around when the points went long.

So, Robredo took chances and tried to finish them off fast. The strategy backfired -- he missed badly on routine shots and had 31 unforced errors.

"I knew that running and running would be tough for me," Robredo said. "I tried to hit hard and be aggressive. That's why I was missing today more than normally."