Saturday, August 16, 2003

Semifinals should sizzle


Four rising stars seek final playing career-best tennis

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

PHOTO GALLERY

Photos of Friday's matches
MASON - When in doubt, favor the hot player. But that'll be difficult today at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, for each semifinalist is playing the hottest tennis of his career.

Andy Roddick has ridden a 28-2 streak to reach a career-high No. 4 ranking. Max Mirnyi, 20-9 on hard courts, has hit a career-high No. 26 and will surpass that next week. Rainer Schuettler, in his second consecutive semifinal, is up to a career-high No. 8.

And Mardy Fish, No. 41 after reaching a high of 39 last week, will zoom past that.

After the United States failed to produce a semifinalist each of the past three years - the first three times in this event's 105-year history - it has two this year: Roddick and Fish.

The seventh-seeded Roddick, who beat Mariano Zabaleta 6-1, 6-2 Friday, was expected here. He'll meet Mirnyi at noon; Mirnyi beat sixth-seeded Guillermo Coria 6-2, 7-5 Friday.

Fish is a shocker. He had never previously advanced past the round of 32 in a Grand Slam or Tennis Masters Series event.

He beat David Nalbandian 7-6 (3), 6-3 Friday. At 7 p.m., he'll meet the eighth-seeded Schuettler, who beat Robby Ginepri 6-2, 6-3 Friday.

Schuettler beat Fish 7-6 (5), 6-4 in their only prior meeting, on hard courts this January in Sydney, Australia.

Roddick has never faced Mirnyi, but the matchup is intriguing. The 6-foot-2 Roddick doesn't often have the sense of what it's like being the little guy, facing his 130-mph serve.

He will today, dwarfed by the 6-5 Mirnyi, and Mirnyi's big serve will gave Roddick a taste of his own medicine.

Because Coria lost, just two seeded players reached the semifinals. That's the lowest total since just two seeds were in the 1981 semis.

Mirnyi, who along with Mahesh Bhupathi forms the world's No. 1 doubles team, also will play a doubles semifinal today against Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley.

Americans Bob and Mike Bryan, seeded second, will face Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor in the other semifinal.

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E-mail nschmidt@enquirer.com




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