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Last Updated: Monday, 8 September, 2003, 00:15 GMT 01:15 UK
Roddick confirms star potential
By Caroline Cheese

US Open winner Andy Roddick
The US Open began with emotional goodbyes from American legends Pete Sampras and Michael Chang, and ended with Andy Roddick stepping effortlessly into their shoes.

The 21-year-old's nerveless performance in the final, as he ruthlessly crushed Juan Carlos Ferrero, would have been enough to propel him to superstardom in his home country.

In fact, his recovery from two sets and match point down against David Nalbandian in the semi-finals had already done that as he displayed the never-say-die attitude essential in the all-American hero.

With a celebrity girlfriend in pop star Mandy Moore, Roddick's marketability as the next great US star is complete.

He handled his first Grand Slam final with an incredible assurance, but Roddick has long had to learn to live with pressure.

With America hungry for more stars in the mould of Sampras and Andre Agassi, Roddick has shouldered much of the burden since winning the junior title at Flushing Meadows three years ago.

Just a year after winning the boys' trophy, he reached the quarter-finals of the senior event and finished inside the world top 20 at the age of 19.

The following season, doubts began to surface over his game, with critics describing his reliance on a howitzer serve and explosive forehand as a weakness.

A first-round defeat at this year's French Open was the catalyst for Roddick to split with long-time coach Tarik Benhabiles and link up with Agassi's former mentor Brad Gilbert.

ANDY RODDICK
Age: 21
Born: Omaha, Nebraska
World ranking: 2 (after US Open)
Career titles: 11
Earnings: $4.6m
The partnership brought immediate results, but Roddick again fell short of a Grand Slam title when he was beaten by Roger Federer in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

The pressure was beginning to build and it only increased when he captured back-to-back Masters Series titles in the run-up to the US Open.

When he went two sets down to Nalbandian, Grand Slam glory looked set to elude him again.

But an inspired comeback, which combined all-out power with some level-headed match play at crucial moments, demonstrated that Roddick had developed into the complete player.

And he could not have banked his first major trophy on a bigger stage, or in a higher quality tournament.

All eight top seeds reached the last 16 and, while the persistent rain in the second week threatened to have a say on the outcome, it was ultimately forgotten in the festival of eye-catching tennis which followed.

Nalbandian, who was outstanding in his fourth-round defeat of Federer and for two and a half sets against Roddick, added his name to the growing list of young players who will be battling it out for Grand Slam titles in the coming seasons.

Ferrero put a minor blemish on his end-of-tournament report with a limp display in the final.

But the American crowd will not forget the attention-shy Spaniard in a hurry after his stellar performance against Agassi in the semis which saw him become world number one.

Argentine Guillermo Coria, like Ferrero, proved his all-court credentials by reaching the quarter-finals, and Lleyton Hewitt was close to his spirited best as he also reached the last eight.

Justine Henin-Hardenne

The culmination, like all three other Grand Slam finals this year, turned out to be an embarrassing mismatch.

But the men's tournament was littered with enthralling encounters throughout, which more than made up for a highly disappointing women's event.

Justine Henin-Hardenne's incredible semi-final win over Jennifer Capriati was the match of the fortnight, if not the season, and no one could deny the Belgian deserved her title after some breathtaking tennis.

But it was the absent Williams sisters who did their public image no end of good as the women's tournament suffered without their brutal displays on court and their quirkiness off it.

The effervescent Roddick majestically filled the hole for the American public.

As his 23rd ace of the final won him the title, the 21-year-old looked incredulously towards his family and coach.

It was reminsicent of the day 13 years ago when a similarly fresh-faced Sampras collected his first Grand Slam title on the very same stage.



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