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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Haas joins big three in semis

Photo Titled Fed volley
Roger Federer plays a backhand volley in his quarter-final match against Ivo Karlovic.

And then there were four. Nine days ago, the men’s locker rooms were heaving with 128 hopefuls, all with their eyes on the trophy. As of Wednesday evening, we were down to the semi-finalists: Roger Federer, the man chasing history; Andy Murray, the man with the weight of the home nation of his shoulders; Andy Roddick, the two-time finalist who has worked himself narrow to have another crack at greatness and Tommy Haas. Yes, that’s right: Tommy Haas.

Haas pulled off the sensation of the tournament, brushing aside Novak Djokovic, the fourth seed, 7-5, 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-3. At the age of 31 and after a career plagued by injury and lack of confidence, the German is playing the tennis of his life and looks ready to make a habit of upsetting the favourites.

That may not be quite so straightforward as he now plays Federer, but he still feels that his Wimbledon fortnight is not over yet. He is serving well, feeling healthy and he has absolutely nothing to lose.

“I always felt like deep down Wimbledon will maybe still have something left for me,” Haas said. “It better come up soon, because I'm not getting any younger. These are obviously the best results, the best tennis I've played here, the best I've been feeling.”

Federer is unlikely to be giving anything away for free on Friday if his performance against Ivo Karlovic is anything to go by and the Swiss is purring along like a perfectly tuned Rolls Royce at the moment. He swatted aside Karlovic’s thumping serve and simply accelerated towards the semi-finals like it was the easiest thing in the world.

On the other side of the draw the finalist will emerge from the battle of the Andys – Murray and Roddick.

Scotland’s finest appeared fresh and fully recovered from his late-night epic on Monday and took just 106 minutes to dismiss Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 6-3, 6-2. For all the exertions of the previous round against Stan Wawrinka, Murray actually appeared to get better and quicker the longer the match wore on.

Roddick, meanwhile, was kept running and scrapping for 10 minutes short of four hours by Lleyton Hewitt before he just got the better of his old rival 6-3, 6-7 (10-12), 7-6 (7-1), 4-6, 6-4. For a man still trying to get back to his best after hip surgery last year, Hewitt has found a new lease of life in SW19. The match with Roddick was his second five-setter in three days and yet still he had the American within reach until the last couple of games.

As for Roddick, he was simply “relieved” to have come through against such a feisty opponent. It is four years since he was last in the semi final here – and then he went on to lose to Federer in the final. Thinner and fitter than he has ever been, he is playing better than he has in years thanks to the coaching of Larry Stefanki. But, then again Murray usually wins when he plays Roddick. Roll on Friday.

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