Ancic is assured against Roddick

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The Independent Online

Unseeded Mario Ancic made an assured start in his surprising bid to emulate his hero Goran Ivanisevic and reach a Wimbledon Men's Final.

Unseeded Mario Ancic made an assured start in his surprising bid to emulate his hero Goran Ivanisevic and reach a Wimbledon Men's Final.

The 20-year-old Croat, who all-too-comfortably defeated Tim Henman in the previous round, nervelessly held his first four service games against world No 2 Andy Roddick.

The second seeded American, despite hitting speeds of 142mph in his first service game, did not appear as comfortable. He also doubled-faulted twice in that game but was saved by two loose forehands by Ancic.

The semi-final was switched to Number One Court after rain delays sabotaged the order of play and when it finally began the first set opened to serve. Roddick struck one vicious running forehand into Ancic's body but the world No 63 remained unperturbed and continued to approach the net and pressurise the Roddick return. Ancic's serve was also rock-solid.

It was the second time the two had met on grass in the past four weeks - having never previously played each other - with Roddick beating the Croat in the third round as he successfully defended his title at Queen's last month.

Roddick dropped a set then but has rarely looked like doing so in reaching his second successive Wimbledon semi-final, breaking the competition's serve speed record twice in his quarter-final - serving 146mph against Sjeng Schalken. Indeed Roddick - bidding to become the first American in the final since Pete Sampras in 2000 - has lost just once in his last 21 matches on grass but was clearly mindful that his dangerous opponent was the last man to defeat Roger Federer on this surface. That was two years ago and on Centre Court.

Ancic has his own record to set and hoped to become the third unseeded player to reach a Grand Slam final this year. More importantly for him he was only the fourth Croat (and only the second since the break-up of the old Yugoslavia) to reach the last four of a Grand Slam men's singles. Ivanisevic - after whom he has been dubbed "Baby Goran" - appeared in seven and, of course, won at Wimbledon in 2000. That year Ancic was a loser in the final of the junior event.

After his initial unsteadiness Roddick quickly rallied yesterday and held his third service game to love, before Ancic again pulled into a 4-3 lead, which Roddick cancelled out, as the match threatened to be a long, attritional encounter of two big-hitters.

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