DOHA // Andy Roddick demonstrated what a tremendous fighter he can be to take the sting out of a succession of body blows he received from the phenomenally quick Frenchman Gael Monfils and bludgeon his way through to the final of the Qatar Open.
The big-serving American, who has failed to build on the one grand slam success he enjoyed in his home country in 2003, showed he is still a contender for the biggest prizes in the game as he turned around what looked a forlorn situation. Second best in the opening set against an opponent brimming with confidence after dismissing the world No 1 Rafael Nadal in a thrilling quarter- final, the fourth-seeded Roddick somehow took that in a tie-break.
Then, after being outplayed in the second set, he found a way to regain the ascendancy and snatch a 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 victory. Monfils, 22, the fifth seed who is ranked 13 in the world, should have won in straight sets, having got himself to serve for the first set. The youngster had shown tremendous composure under similar pressure to convert such a position twice the previous evening to bring about the shock elimination of Nadal.
On this occasion, though, he was found badly wanting. Inching nervously to set point, he wasted it with a poor forehand and then missed what should have been the simplest of passes with Roddick stranded on the wrong side of the court. Roddick needed no second invitation to launch his fightback and eventually retrieved the serve he had lost in the seventh game to draw level and dominate the ensuing tie-break and won it 7-1.
Monfils took a medical time out at that stage to receive attention on a back problem. It proved a minor irritation as he swiftly regrouped and broke Roddick again in the fourth game of the second set. This time he did not falter under the stress of serving out at 5-3. Roddick was first to break in the deciding set after an attempted lob by his opponent just missed the baseline, but the Frenchman responded immediately to break back, confirming the feat with the loudest of his shouts of "Allez".
The rallying cry proved in vain, however, because Roddick refused to be deflected from his mission to qualify for his 41st career final, making the decisive break to lead 5-3. And unlike his opponent Monfils in that opening set, the American relished the chance to close out the two-hour tussle. Roddick profited from the young Frenchman's frustrating inability to reproduce the brilliant level of form he rose to in spoiling Nadal's return to competitive action after injury.
Roddick said: "There was not a lot between us out there. I had to stay the course and keep my concentration in that third set. It was a physical match. He makes you work hard for every point and I'm really pleased. I managed to work as hard as I needed to. He mixes his game a lot and he is hard to play against." :firstname.lastname@example.org