KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. - Two hours before his semifinal, Andy Roddick warmed up on the stadium court, barely breaking a sweat on a cool evening as he traded groundstrokes with coach Brad Gilbert.
Roddick made the match that followed look just as effortless.
Playing nearly flawless tennis against an overmatched opponent, he advanced to the final of the Nasdaq-100 Open for the first time Friday by beating Vince Spadea 6-1, 6-3.
“I wanted to set the tone early, and it worked for me,” Roddick said. “I pretty much dominated from start to finish.”
The No. 2-seeded Roddick, who grew up in nearby Boca Raton, will play Sunday for the title of a tournament he used to watch from the bleachers as a youngster. His opponent will be No. 3 Guillermo Coria, who overcame four match points to beat Fernando Gonzalez in an all-South American semifinal, 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1.
Serena Williams will play for the women’s championship Saturday in her first tournament following an eight-month layoff. The two-time defending champion faces fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva, who seeks a sweep of the Williams sisters after upsetting Venus in the quarterfinals.
Roddick encountered some difficulties en route to the final, but not against Spadea. He took the first set in 21 minutes and won seven consecutive games. He lost only eight points on his serve, reached break point 11 times and kept Spadea on the defensive by consistently pounding deep groundstrokes while committing just 11 unforced errors.
“You survive long enough and you start playing well,” Roddick said, “and I think that’s what happened tonight.”
To reach the final Roddick needed a pair of three-set victories, pulling out his quarterfinal match only when Carlos Moya became rattled nearing the finish.
The unseeded Spadea had been on a run over the past month that included his first tournament title at age 29. But against Roddick, Spadea conceded he played too tentatively in the breezy weather.
“He was playing really well and blasting on all his cylinders,” Spadea said. “I was playing like I was sort of in a hurricane, just kind of guiding the ball and waiting for him to do something.”
Roddick came out firing with two service winners and an ace to take the opening game at love. Spadea lost his second service game with four consecutive unforced errors to fall behind 3-1, and when Roddick erased two break points to take the next game, he was in front to stay.
Four unforced errors and a double fault cost Spadea another service game to start the second set. The rout left the crowd mostly subdued, but midway through the second set, a fan shouted, “Hide the children!”
Spadea sailed a backhand long to reach match point, then slammed his racket to the concrete, but the fit didn’t help. Roddick closed out the win on the next point, and Spadea sent the racket skidding across the court.
Roddick, who leads the ATP Tour in victories this year, improved to 25-5 and avenged a defeat last month against Spadea at Scottsdale, Ariz.
The next challenge will be Coria. Roddick is 2-0 against the Argentine and won their most recent meeting in the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Houston last November.
“I’m still pretty hot about my loss,” Coria said. “I would like to have revenge. ... I’m going to fight hard every point. Roddick is going to have to earn it.”
Coria’s semifinal victory was his third three-set match of the tournament,
“Coria has used about three of his nine lives so far,” Roddick said with a laugh. “We both probably shouldn’t be here.”
Against Gonzalez, Coria trailed 5-3 in the second set and 6-4 in the tiebreaker.
“I never give up,” Coria said. “The match is never over until I shake hands with the opponent.”
Fans chanted, sang and waved their country’s flag during the match between Coria and Chile’s Gonzalez, seeded 21st. But the mood turned tense with Gonzalez on the verge of victory when his strokes went haywire.
Holding two match points serving for the victory at 5-4 in the second set, Gonzalez double-faulted and hit a forehand into the net. That marked the start of Coria’s comeback, as Gonzalez’s shots became more and more tentative.
The Chilean conceded that nerves got the best of him.
“This is the first time that this happened to me in an important tournament like this one,” he said. “I’m very disappointed. Everybody’s nervous, but you have to play good when you are nervous. I tried to.”
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will renew their rivalry in the Italian Open final Sunday.
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