|Andy Roddick hits a forehand return on the way to victory over Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in their semi-final match at the Brisbane International tennis tournament, in Brisbane (AFP photo)|
BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) – Top seed Andy Roddick will play defending champion Radek Stepanek in the final of the season-opening Brisbane International after both had contrasting semi-final wins on Saturday.
Stepanek cruised past disappointing Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-2, 6-1 in the first semi-final before Roddick was forced to come from a set down to overcome Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Roddick had been in tremendous form leading into the semi-final and had not had his serve broken in the three previous rounds.
However he was slightly off key in the first set and Berdych attacked, racing to a 5-0 lead before taking the opening set in 34 minutes.
The American regrouped after that and his serve picked up, while Berdych was the one put on the defensive.
Roddick broke once in each set to take the match and move into Sunday's decider against Stepanek, a repeat of the final in Memphis last year, won by Roddick in two close sets.
Stepanek destroyed an out of sorts Monfils, who struggled with a niggling shoulder injury and never looked capable of matching the defending champion.
Monfils was down on power with his serve and groundstrokes and Stepanek took full advantage, wrapping up the semi-final in only 60 minutes.
He said afterwards it was the best he had played all week and it gave him enormous confidence heading into the final.
"I was the more creative one and was more aggressive the way I was finishing the points at the net," he said.
"I had him under pressure right from the beginning and I was happy I was able to hold my level for the whole two sets."
Stepanek has now gone nine matches unbeaten in Brisbane after winning the first tournament here last year and he said there was no reason why he couldn't make it 10 from 10 in the final.
"Starting the year again here being in the final is a great feeling -- winning four matches straight away at the start of the season is great and I have one more to go tomorrow."
Monfils has had his shoulder strapped all week after pulling a muscle during training in Adelaide last week.
"I think my shoulder wasn't so good so I couldn't serve very well, and not very hard as well," he said.
"I was a bit tired and Radek played well, so he deserved to win."
Monfils admitted he had been looking further ahead than reaching Sunday's final.
"To be honest, I tried a bit but then my shoulder was sore and before the match I decided not to kill my shoulder," he said.
"I have a goal in one week's time (at the Australian Open)."