Roddick, Hewitt, Davenport advance

Associated Press

Melbourne, January 26:

Andy Roddick had a much easier run to the Australian Open semi-finals than he did two years ago, one that Lleyton Hewton can only envy. Averaging just 1 1/2 hours per match, Roddick advanced on Wednesday when Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko, suffering from breathing problems for the second consecutive match, retired after falling behind 6-3, 7-5, 4-1.

He next faces third-seeded Hewitt, a 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 3-6, 10-8 winner over No 9 David Nalbandian of Argentina in a match that lasted 4 hours and 5 minutes and featured fireworks on and off the court. The other semi-final pairs defending champion Roger Federer and fourth-seeded Marat Safin in a rematch of last year’s final. Hewitt gave the home crowd something to cheer about with his gritty victory, with Australia Day fireworks going off near the arena in the third set.

It turned into a contentious battle of survival as both men, disputing a number of line calls, received treatment before the fifth set — Hewitt on his thigh, Nalbandian for a blister on his left foot. It was the 22nd set in five matches for the Argentine, spread over 17 hours.

Nalbandian forced Hewitt to move constantly with groundstrokes from side to side and drop volleys that had the Australian dashing to the net. But Hewitt once again showed he deserves his reputation as an “Aussie battler,” feeding off the cheering, clapping, flag-waving fans. The 22-year-old Roddick reached the Australian Open semi-finals in 2003, losing to Rainer Schuettler after he’d clinched a draining quarter-final win over Morocco’s Younes El Aynaoui with the longest fifth set in Grand Slam history at 21-19.

Davydenko complained of breathing problems just before finishing off a straight-sets quarter-final victory two days ago. He called for the trainer in the second set after Roddick broke him for a 3-2 lead.

Davydenko recovered briefly, breaking back in the next game as Roddick committed his only two double-faults. But Davydenko was soon laboring again and finally retired after getting broken for the second time in the third set to trail 4-1. He received medical treatment for more than an hour after the match. On the women’s side, top-seeded Lindsay Davenport, recovered from a bout of bronchitis she suffered just before the Australian Open, outlasted Olympic bronze medallist Alicia Molik, seed 10th, 6-4, 4-6, 9-7.

She will face France’s Nathalie Dechy, who reached a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time. Dechy, seeded 19th, ousted No 12 Patty Schnyder 5-7, 6-1, 7-5.

But while the two women’s quarter-finals lasted exactly the same time — 2:33 — Davenport then headed back out to advance to the doubles finals with Corina Morariu after a three-set victory that took another 1:44.

She’ll have only about 20 hours to recover, with her next match following Thursday’s semi-final between fourth-seeded Maria Sharapova and No 7 Serena Williams — a rematch of last year’s Wimbledon final, when the 17-year-old Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title.

Open Glance

• Weather: Hot, top temperature of 36 Celsius.

• Attendance: 18,437 (day); 15,279 (night).

• Men: Andy Roddick (2), Lleyton Hewitt (3), advanced; David Nalbandian (9), Nikolay Davydenko (26) lost.

• Women: Lindsay Davenport (1), Nathalie Dechy (19) advanced; Alicia Molik (10), Patty Schnyder (12) lost.

• Stat of the Day: The time that Lindsay Davenport and Nathalie Dechy took to win their simultaneous quarter-final matches over Alicia Molik and Patty Schnyder, respectively.

• Quote of the Day: “I don’t have many miles on me so far.” — Andy Roddick on his short matches during the first five rounds of the Open.