A-Rod and Federer clash

LONDON: Andy Roddick and Roger Federer beat their opponents and the rain yesterday as they hurtled into a mouth-watering semi-final showdown at Wimbledon. 

On a day which also saw defending champion Serena Williams book her place in the women's final, Sebastien Grosjean ended British hopes with a four-set victory over Tim Henman. 

Grosjean's reward was a semi-final meeting with Australia's Mark Philippoussis, who completed a fightback from two sets down to beat German surprise package Alexander Popp 8-6 in the fifth. 

With both their quarter-finals held over from Wednesday and then delayed for another two and a half hours, Roddick and Federer both seemed determined to spend as little time on court as possible. 

Roddick was first back into the locker room after a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 demolition of Swedish veteran Jonas Bjorkman. 

FACES OF VICTORY: (From left) Mark Philippoussis, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer and Sebastien Grosjean celebrate their entries into the men's singles semi-finals. --AGENCIESpix.

But Federer had swiftly joined him after cruising through his match with Dutchman Sjeng Schalken 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the first Grand Slam semi-final of his career. 

Schalken had been grateful for the extra 24 hours he had to rest a badly inflamed and infected left foot which had almost forced him to pull out of the tournament. 

But although he was able to play with the help of painkillers, it was soon apparent that the Dutchman was not 100 percent and Federer was able to cruise to victory without ever playing anything like his best tennis. 

“It is not so easy to play someone who is not feeling great and is taking chances,” the Swiss 21-year-old said. 

“But I'm happy I took this opportunity. For me it's a great day -- I've been waiting a long time for this moment.” 

“It is all about giving yourself opportunities and then taking them. That is what these two weeks have been all about for me and now I want to go further.” 

Roddick will go into Friday's semi-final as a slight favourite but Federer, who has won all their previous encounters, insisted he would not be intimidated by the American's killer serve. 

“I don't believe I'm going to get 200 aces. I have managed to return his serve in the past and I guess I can do that tomorrow 

“What should I be worried about, the serves don't kill you.” 

Roddick, who like Federer has advanced to the last four with the loss of only one set, revealed the secret of his success: “I'm not trying to think too much, I'm just letting it happen.” 

Grosjean, the 13th seed, ended the hopes of a packed centre court arena which was bristling with optimism on Wednesday. 

“I am pretty happy today,” grinned 25-year-old Grosjean.  

“I am in good shape. The rain helped me a lot - after that I played much better,” said the swashbuckling Frenchman. 

Serena Williams makes the women's final with a straight set win over Justine Henin-Hardene. --AGENCIESpix.

“I was two sets to one up - but it's never easy to come back the day after. 

“I started pretty well and that helped me to finish the match,” said Grosjean, who had beaten Henman at Queen's Club ahead of Wimbledon and who broke crucially in the seventh game of the fourth set for a 4-3 lead. 

He then missed a match point on Henman's serve in the ninth game in netting a forehand before serving out and landing the win when Henman drove despairingly into the net. 

Of the key break point which put him finally on the road to victory Grosjean said it was a question of staying calm and performing the basics. 

“I just hit the ball, tried to put it in the court. I knew when I was on the court the people were behind him – but I tried to focus on my game.” 

Grosjean ended Henman's annual pilgrimage in seeking to become the first British men's champion here since Fred Perry in 1936 in brutal fashion. 

Henman, 28, had reached the semis four times in the previous five years - but this time his challenge ran into the buffers a round early. 

Serena Williams moved into Saturday's women's final by overwhelming third seed Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-3, 6-2. 

It was a win that will help Serena erase the painful memories of her defeat by the Belgian at the French Open last month in a match marred by a row over alleged gamesmanship and the wildly partisan behaviour of the pro-Henin crowd. 

But Williams insisted it was not a case of sweet revenge. 

“She's a nice girl,” she said. “You guys just want to make a mountain out of a molehill, and in this case there's not even a molehill.” 

Williams did however admit that the trauma she suffered in Paris had stiffened her resolve to retain her title here. 

“I went home and worked a little harder than normal. I can't stay at home and watch the Golden Girls all day!” 

Henin-Hardenne, who refused to be drawn into the controversy which marred her Paris success, blamed a bad start for her demise. 

“I think I had a really bad start in the match and she was really aggressive - much better than me. She was just too good today. “ 

Serena will play either sister Venus or Kim Clijsters in the final. Clijsters had claimed the first set 6-4 and Venus the second 6-3 in their rain-interrupted match at press time.– AFP 

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