WASHINGTON - -In their five previous meetings, Ivo Karlovic had never managed to break Andy Roddick's vaunted serve.
With the towering Croatian doing so twice Friday, their quarterfinal match proved two things: Roddick's vaunted serve isn't entirely where he would like it to be after a four-week break after Wimbledon. But the top-ranked American continues to show newfound poise on court, able to maintain his composure when points don't unfold as scripted.
In both the first and second sets, Roddick broke back in short order for a 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5) victory that sent him on to tonight's semifinals against unseeded John Isner, who beat No. 8 seed Tomas Berdych, 6-3, 6-7 (10), 6-2.
In defeating Karlovic, Roddick might not have shown a mastery of every element of his game. There was ragged play on both sides of the net in stretches, with more rallies decided by errors than outright winners.
But Roddick did show command of his on-court comportment, apart from a minor meltdown after he was broken to open the second set and blasted a ball out of stadium with sufficient force to plop down in Rockville. The venting was over in a matter of seconds, and Roddick went back to playing smart tennis.
And that ability to forget and move on goes far in high-stakes tennis, a sport in which forces beyond your control - a gust of wind, a net cord, a 6-10 ace-blasting machine like Karlovic - can conspire against you.
"You're at his mercy on his first serve," Roddick said of Karlovic, who finished with 13 aces to Roddick's seven. "You're just reacting. You're just trying to survive and put it anywhere in the court."
It's a pity Germany's Tommy Haas hasn't mastered the art of moving on after a bad play or bit of bad luck. In the day's first quarterfinal, Haas sulked for nearly two games after losing his serve in the second set against Fernando Gonzalez of Chile. And while Gonzalez was the better player from the outset, Haas' self-defeating funk no doubt helped the Chilean close the match, 7-5, 6-4.
Cheered by a spirited band of Chileans, the fourth-seeded Gonzalez blasted 18 forehand winners en route to the victory that put him in today's semifinals.
His next opponent, Juan Mart?n del Potro of Argentina, the tournament's defending champion, had to expend far less energy to advance, gliding into the semifinals without picking up his racket Friday after Sweden's Robin Soderling pulled out with an ailing right elbow.