INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Andy Roddick beat Ivan Ljubicic 7-6 (7), 7-6 (8) on Thursday night to move into the Pacific Life Open semifinals.
No. 3 Roddick will face No. 2 Rafael Nadal, a 7-5, 7-5 winner over Juan Ignacio Chela, on Saturday. The men's final is Sunday.
Roddick and Ljubicic, both big servers with powerful groundstrokes, nearly matched each other almost shot for shot. There were no service breaks, and the tiebreakers were similarly tight.
Roddick finally ended it with a forehand to the baseline that handcuffed Ljubicic, and he hit an awkward backhand wide. Almost before the ball bounced, the Croatian -- who had fought back from three match points during the tiebreaker -- began to trot to the net to shake the American's hand.
The first-set tiebreaker was much like the second, with Roddick winning it with a backhand passing shot as Ljubicic charged forward.
"I was excited because I was playing the way I wanted to in the
breakers," Roddick said. "I kept going forward. I won some
points, I lost some points. ...
"I thought all in all, I gave myself a chance to win and
eventually was able to do it."
Ljubicic served 12 aces to Roddick's eight, and his fastest serve -- 143 mph -- was 1 mph faster than his American foe.
Asked about facing Nadal, Roddick said, "You've got to make him
play. If he's getting cheapies off of his serve, then that's a bad
thing. At the same time, you don't want to leave it hanging in the
middle of the court."
Nadal, looking for his first title since winning the French Open last June, was patient against Chela, usually keeping the ball in play until either he would suddenly drive a hard winner down the line or his Argentine foe would hit an errant shot.
A 20-year-old Spaniard, Nadal has been ranked No. 2 behind Roger Federer for a record 86 weeks. He won five times last year, including beating Federer to successfully defend his Roland Garros title.
Since then, Nadal has gone 12 events without a championship, the longest dry spell since it took him 24 tournaments to win his first tour event in 2004.
Nadal said he wasn't at the top of his game against Chela, but he is pleased with the way he's been playing.
"I'm having the best moment of the season, for sure right now. It's just the fourth tournament," he said. "But I feel great. I feel so much better than the last months right now, and I am in the semifinals.
"That is a very good result in one hard tournament."
Noting that the best players show up at Indian Wells, Nadal said: "So that's very good, being in the top four players."
Three-time defending champion Federer was knocked out of the tournament in his first match, when Guillermo Canas beat him in straight sets Sunday to end the Swiss star's 41-match winning string.
Asked about his stay on the second rung in the rankings, Nadal said, "Right now, I feel good at No. 2 because I don't see a lot of chances for being the No. 1. But for sure, my goal is to be the No. 1 [some] day."
On the women's side, 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova advanced to the semifinals with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Nicole Vaidisova. Kuznetsova will face Sybille Bammer, who defeated Tatiana Golovin 6-2, 6-3.
Kuznetsova, who hadn't advanced beyond the quarterfinals in three previous Indian Wells appearances, started slowly but bounced back in a match that featured long rallies.
"I was a bit slow in the first set. I was maybe a bit tense and I wasn't getting into the ball as I would [like] to," Kuznetsova said. "She played a good match and it was very tough out there."
A 21-year-old Russian who has won eight events, No. 4 Kuznetsova is the highest-ranked woman remaining in the tournament.
No. 10 Vaidisova, a 17-year-old from the Czech Republic, thought she and Kuznetsova both played extremely well.
"A couple of mistakes here and there and she was able to take advantage of it," Vaidisova said. "But I felt good with the way I played."