Roddick's artillery overwhelms Schalken

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The Independent Online

Andy Roddick will not now have to fashion his facial hair into a twiddled moustache or emerge from the wings to hisses for tomorrow's semi-final.

Andy Roddick will not now have to fashion his facial hair into a twiddled moustache or emerge from the wings to hisses for tomorrow's semi-final.

Indeed, the American may now be the crowd favourite against Mario Ancic, whom he faces after yesterday's 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory over Sjeng Schalken. Roddick has yet to drop a set in the championships.

It was not easy to spot yesterday, but there is an emotional bond between Roddick and Schalken. At the Italia Masters in May, fire raged through a players' hotel and the American's sixth-floor balcony became sanctuary for over 20 people, including Schalken and his wife Ricky, who jumped down from the level above.

But then fire tends to follow Roddick around. In every match he plays, win or lose, his serve is the dominating factor. The No2 seed was up to 146mph yesterday, a little short of his record 153mph at Queen's, but it might have been hard to convince Schalken this was an off day.

At times the Dutchman was forced to use his racket as a shield. It might have been kinder to have taken him to the back netting, applied the blindfold and offered a final cigarette.

Schalken's serve (top speed 116mph) was, by comparison, a rather sedate mechanism to introduce the ball into play. But then Roddick's return is not the most compelling aspect of his game. This led, rather predictably, to long sequences of games going with serve (the single break came in the final set). The main entertainment became the freakshow scrutiny of the speed gun to see if Roddick could break his serving record. It was akin to witnessing a circus strong man.

It all seemed rather less intriguing than what was happening on Centre Court, from which great rumbles of reaction blew over. For those of us on No1, it was rather like watching the television while a wild party was going on next door. But at least the party finished early.

The omens are good for Roddick. On the previous four occasions Schalken has lost in a Grand Slam quarter-final, including here 12 months ago against Roger Federer, he has gone out to the eventual winner.

By 7.30pm last night, Federer's quarter-final against Lleyton Hewitt stood at two sets to one in the Swiss player's favour. The remarkable feature of that scoreline was that Federer had dropped a set at the All England Club for the first time since his third-round match against Mardy Fish last year.

He did so in a second-set tie-break, won emphatically, 7-1, by an opponent then intent on trying to bring a semblance of competition to the proceedings. The illusion did not persist into the third set, when Federer won every game to move the score to 6-1, 6-7, 6-0.

Hewitt then took a medical time-out to receive courtside treatment on his thigh, which required massage to alleviate an apparently temporary problem.

Of more pressing concern was how to break Federer's serve - for a year, on grass at least, the impossible task in world tennis. The defending champion went into his quarter-final not having been broken in 54 consecutive games in this tournament. The last time his serve was broken at Wimbledon was by Sjeng Schalken in last year's quarter-final, meaning Federer's unbeaten streak before the start of play yesterday was 89 games.

The streak hit 100 consecutive unbroken games in the third game of yesterday's third set. No wonder Hewitt's legs started wobbling.