Novak Down Andy

That litany of health issues Novak Djokovic dealt with earlier in the week hip, ankle, stomach and more seemed a tad humorous to Andy Roddick.

So Roddick joked about it, first by saying in an on-court interview it sounded as though Djokovic had “about 16 injuries,” then by wondering aloud whether the problems might not also include bird flu, anthrax, SARS and a common cold.Djokovic heard about the comments. He wasn't amused.

So when he finished beating Roddick 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) in the U.S. Open quarterfinals Thursday night, Djokovic said so.“That's not nice, anyhow, to say in front of this crowd that I have 16 injuries and that I'm faking,” Djokovic said after match, eliciting hearty boos from spectators in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“They're already against me,” he said of the fans, “because they think I'm faking everything.”Still, as much motivation as Djokovic might have derived, and as well as he played in the match, 2003 U.S. Open champion Roddick's own serving miscues had a lot to do with the outcome.

After working his way back from a huge deficit, Roddick was two points from forcing a fifth set at 5-4, 30-love in the fourth. But he double-faulted twice in a row and was broken for the fifth timetwice more than he lost serve in his first four matches combined.

“You know what? I honestly don't feel like they were super-tight doubles,” Roddick said. “I had been playing pretty high-risk, high-reward tennis to get back and I probably wasn't about to stop.”In Djokovic's prior match, a five-set ordeal Tuesday against No. 15 Tommy Robredo, the reigning Australian Open champion called for the trainer more than once.

Later that day, Roddick made light of the matter and also said: “He's either quick to call a trainer or he's the most courageous guy of all time.”Roddick sought to smooth things over with Djokovic on Thursday.

“It was completely meant in jest,” Roddick said, pausing to choose the right words. “I should know better. But listen, I joke all the time. I don't think anyone in their right mind takes me serious.”The players spoke privatelyand said they would keep the conversation private. Both were contrite afterward.

“He made a joke and it was a misunderstanding, so I don't blame it on him,” Djokovic said, after getting nearly an hour to consider his on-court statements. “Maybe I exaggerated and reacted bad in that moment. I apologize.”

The third-seeded Djokovic will play Roger Federer in the semifinals. It's a rematch of last year's U.S. Open final, which Federer won for his fourth consecutive title at Flushing Meadows.Federerbidding for a 13th major title, one shy of Pete Sampras' record beat qualifier Gilles Muller 7-6 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (5) to extend his own record by reaching the semifinals at an 18th consecutive Grand Slam tournament.Djokovic is 2-6 against Federer and called him the “absolute favourite.” No. 1 Rafael Nadal will face No. 6 Andy Murray in the other semifinal.Friday was to feature the women's semifinals, with two-time champion Serena Williams against Dinara Safina, and Jelena Jankovic against Elena Dementieva.

One of the four will move up to No. 1 in the rankings after the tournament.The men's semifinals and women's final are all scheduled for Saturday, but tournament organizers have seen forecasts calling for about 12 hours of rain and wind at up to 35 mph that day.

So they began the process of negotiating with TV networks and preparing contingency plans, including the possibility of announcing Friday that no tennis would be played Saturday, and that the men's final would be shifted from Sunday to Monday.Such changes would give Djokovic extra time to rest, something he said would be welcomed.Against the eighth-seeded Roddick, Djokovic grew increasingly agitated when spectators called out as he was trying to serve or in the middle of points.

With Djokovic serving at 3-3 in the fourth set, he watched Roddick's backhand winner fly past to set up break point and yelled, “Shut up!” in the direction of the stands, then cursed. Roddick followed with another backhand winner to cap a 12-stroke exchange and take the lead in the set.But he couldn't stay ahead.Serving at 5-4, having held nine times in a row, Roddick opened with a 142 mph ace and a 143 mph service winner. At 30-love, he was two points from being all tied up.And right there, all so suddenly, everything came apart.

First, Roddick pushed a forehand wide. Then he double-faulted, not once but twice, to hand over a break point. Djokovic took advantage, delivering a perfect lob winner to get to 5-5.At 5-5 in the tiebreaker, a 15-stroke point at the baseline concluded when Roddick missed a backhand slice into the net.“A bad shot,” Roddick conceded.

Seconds later, the match was over when Roddick returned a 125 mph serve long, and Djokovic was pounding his fists on his chest.Only moments after that, Djokovic was drawing jeersa stunning turnaround from a year ago, when he endeared himself to U.S. Open fans with his stylish play, his sense of humour and his spot-on impersonations of other players.“I figure if you're going to joke and imitate other people and do the whole deal, then you should take it. Listen, if someone makes fun of me I'm most likely going to laugh,” Roddick said.

“I'm sorry he took it that way. … I don't think I was over the line. It wasn't my intention, and, you know, I'm sorry he felt that way. Maybe I did him a favour tonight.”


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