HOUSTON: World number one Andy Roddick is finding life tough at the top as he was forced to dig deep to sneak past feisty Argentine Guillermo Coria 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 on Friday to book the last semi-final berth at the ATP Masters Cup.
Despite his struggles, Roddick now finds himself in good position to add one more jewel to what has been glittering season as he closes in on a seventh title and a winner's purse of US$1.4 million.
“I came here with one goal and that was to finish number one,” said Roddick, who clinched the year-end honour on Wednesday. “Now that I've done that everything else is a bonus.”
Roddick's win sets up an intriguing showdown with Roger Federer, the raw, brute power of the US Open champion against the finesse and all-round game of the Swiss Wimbledon champion.
The other semi-final will also feature a Grand Slam winner, Australian Open champion Andre Agassi taking on the surprise package of the Masters Cup, Rainer Schuettler of Germany.
“It's going to be tough,” Roddick said, looking forward to Federer. “I've said a couple of times already, he's definitely played the best tennis through the round-robin and I'm just lucky to be here.”
Since taking possession of the number one ranking in Paris last month, Roddick has quickly discovered that staying on top of the tennis summit may indeed be tougher than climb to get there.
Roddick's first match as number one ended in a loss to Britain's Tim Henman and while his three matches here have produced two wins, the 21-year-old American has been stretched to the limit, each time needing three gruelling sets to get the job done.
With second place in the Red Group and a place in the final four on the line, Roddick's match with Coria may have been the toughest of them all.
“I can't remember a match where I've been down like that and turned it around so quickly,” Roddick said. “It seemed like just 20 minutes later I was in here with a win. A lot of it had to do with the crowd and I think he let up a little bit.”
Federer enters Saturday's match with a confidence boosting 4-1 record over Roddick and as the only player not to lose a match closing out round-robin play earlier in the day with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero.
In the day's only other match Carlos Moya beat Schuettler 7-5, 6-4.
Moya's win was the only one in six matches played by the two Spaniard, the Masters Cup proving to be far from an ideal build-up as they head for the Davis Cup final with Australia. – Reuters