Hewitt edges Roddick to reach final

Associated Press

Melbourne, January 28:

Lleyton Hewitt, who seems to feed off controversy and adversity, endured 31 aces to beat second-seeded Andy Roddick 3-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-1 on Friday and advance to the Australian Open final. Third-ranked Hewitt was at his aggressive, fist-pumping best against Roddick. He fired up the crowd, which was too vocal for Roddick’s tastes — he complained about fans shouting during his service motion.

Trying to become the first Australian man to win here since Mark Edmondson in 1976, Hewitt advanced to Sunday’s first-ever final, against fourth-seeded Marat Safin in a matchup of former top-ranked players. The women’s final pits Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams on Saturday. Roddick came out hot, jumping ahead at 2-0. He converted his fourth breakpoint opportunity when Hewitt hit long on a forehand from Roddick that was called good but TV replays indicated was just long.

As he has done so often, Roddick relied on his blistering serve to get out of early trouble. He had six aces as he served at 5-3, using them to fend off four of Hewitt’s five break points in the game, then finish off the set with another two.

Roddick made it seven aces in a row with four in the next game. But Hewitt had only three unforced errors in the second set. Hewitt still needed a tiebreaker to even the match. Hewitt had the only ace to pull ahead 6-3, and Roddick netted a backhand on the next point. After cracking 23 aces in the first two sets, Roddick had only eight in the last two.

Roddick went ahead in the third set when Hewitt double-faulted at break point. But serving at 4-2, 30-30, Roddick double-faulted twice to return the favour. He had only six double-faults in last five mat-ches, but had nine against Hewitt. At the changeover, Roddick complained to chair umpire about fans calling out during his service motion. He complained again in the next game after someone shouted as he served at 40-0 after his 27th ace. Another tiebreaker, and Hewitt peaked at the right time again. From 4-4, he ran off the last three points, the last a backhand crosscourt pass. Hewitt, who has been nursing sore thighs, had spent 14 1/2 hours on court — twice as long as Roddick — over of his previous five matches, including a four-hour, five-setter in the quarter-finals.

But he still looked strong at the end, breaking an increasingly downcast Roddick for the first time while jumping ahead 3-0 in the fourth set. Another break followed to make it 5-1, and Hewitt held for the match when Roddick sent a service return long. In the women’s doubles final, US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and Australia’s Alicia Molik combined to down Americans Lindsay Davenport and Corina Morariu 6-3, 6-4.