Roddick and Del Potro book Washington final showdown

America’s Andy Roddick and Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro both fought their way into the finals of the ATP Washington Classic on Saturday.


AFP- Andy Roddick and Juan Martin Del Potro struggled into the finals of the ATP Washington Classic on Saturday, Del Potro sagging in sweltering heat and Roddick tested by big-serving John Isner.

US top seed Roddick outlasted Isner 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 7-5 and second-seeded defending champion Del Potro of Argentina beat Chilean fourth seed Fernando Gonzalez 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 at the 1.4 million-dollar hardcourt event.

Fifth-ranked Roddick, playing in his first event since a five-set Wimbledon final loss to Roger Federer, fired only nine aces to 20 for Isner but hit 69 percent of his first serves and made only two third-set unforced errors.

"I like being on the giving end of the big serve," Roddick said. "John made me play my best tennis. Anything less than that wasn't going to get it done."

It took five break-point chances in the third set before Roddick finally broke compatriot Isner in the penultimate game, then held serve to win after two hours and 31 minutes.

"I wasn't converting but it's not because I wassn't putting the ball on the court. He was coming up with the goods," Roddick said. "All you can do is put yourself in position and hope you get that point."

Roddick credits his improved shotmaking to faster speed from better fitness.

"It's a lot easier to hit a passing shot when you can get to it," Roddick said.

Sixth-ranked Del Potro fired 10 aces in hot and humid conditions on his way to beating Gonzalez for the first time in four meetings between South America's top players, who each reached this year's French Open semi-finals.

"It was tough for both of us. The court was so hot," Del Potro said. "After the first set Fernando was so tired. Me too. It was very difficult for both of us. We were very tired and the sun was very strong."

Gonzalez was so exhausted that when he fell early in the second set he stayed on his back until Del Potro climbed over the net to help him up.

"He told me, 'Come with me and give up,'" Del Potro said. "I was thinking lay down with him. If I did we would never stand up. I didn't. We kept playing like professionals."

Del Potro won his only prior match with Roddick in last year's Los Angeles final and will try to become the first back-to-back Washington champion since Andre Agassi in 1999.

"I will have to play much better than today," Del Potro said. "He has improved a lot since we played."

Roddick expects no trouble in Sunday's afternoon final after training in Texas heat for weeks but does anticipate seeing Del Potro at his best.

"I'm going to have to hit the ball really well from the baseline," Roddick said. "He drives the ball through the court as well as anybody. It's a matter of surviving early on, getting it down hopefully to where it's just a few big points."

Roddick, 26, seeks his 28th career crown and fourth in Washington after taking the title in 2001, 2005 and 2007, when he beat Isner, 24, in the final. It would be his second ATP title of the year after a February win at Memphis.

Del Potro, 20, seeks his sixth career title and second of the season after winning at Auckland in January.

Isner, who will climb to 44th from 80th in the rankings, saved two break points in the opening game of the third set and one each in the ninth and 11th games before Roddick closed him out.

"Every service game I held was a challenge and he eventually just broke me down," Isner said.

Roddick took a tumble diving for a return in the ninth game but was unhurt.

"I'm fine," Roddick said. "I'm worried about the court."

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