Johansson beats Roddick at his own game

NEW YORK -- The execution is fairly straightforward: big serve plus big forehand equals game, set, match point. This was supposed to be how Andy Roddick won his second straight U.S. Open, not how he lost it.

But there was Joachim Johansson, a languid 6-foot-6 player from Lund, Sweden, beating Roddick at his own lethal hit-and-miss game. Johansson, also 22 years old, is the Euro Roddick.

For two sets Thursday night in their quarterfinal match, Johansson absolutely bludgeoned the No. 2-seeded Roddick. Some of the serves and forehands he snapped off were so hard and fast they may have evaporated. But then, somewhere between the second and third sets, reality began to dawn on the young Swede. His previously imperious forehand and serve began to fray. By the end of the fourth set, Johansson looked like the player who began the season ranked No. 113 in the world.

And then, in the brave new world of his first five-set match, it was Johansson who was surprisingly stronger. When Roddick's backhand looped over the baseline, the overlooked No. 28 seed was a stunning 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 6-4 winner.

Roddick was so angry over the loss, he came off the court after that 2-hour, 55-minute match and ran several long laps in the oval corridor under Arthur Ashe Stadium. Later, he pointed to the break-point conversions as the difference. Roddick had 15 break points and converted only three. Johansson had only five, but won the same number.

"That was the match," Roddick said. "Let's give some credit to him. He serves out of a tree.

"I don't feel good, but at the same time I fought to the end. I gave it everything I had. It's disheartening, it's disappointing but I'll recover. I'll feel fine."

Said Johansson, "Someone told me he won 150 points [152, actually], and I won 120 [128]. That means I won the right points -- I don't know how."

Johansson's semifinal opponent is No. 4 seed Lleyton Hewitt, a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 winner over Tommy Haas earlier on Thursday. He will be slightly conflicted because his girlfriend Jaslyn is Hewitt's sister. Johansson said she would sit in a neutral luxury suite, rather than decide between their respective family and friends boxes.

Roddick had won 11 consecutive matches here, going back to his 2002 quarterfinals loss to Pete Sampras. And so, for the first time since 1986, there will be no American-born player in the men's semifinals.

While Roddick possesses the fastest serve in tennis history, Johansson came into the match leading the tournament with 76 aces, 22 more than Roddick. After five sets, Roddick won the ace battle 34-30, but Johansson held his own. They broke each other three times in five sets, but Johansson was resourceful enough to save one for each of his successful sets.

Before a militantly pro-Roddick crowd, Johansson had the nerve to break Roddick's serve in the match's fifth game (when Roddick double-faulted). And then the rain came, sending the players to the locker room for a 55-minute rest. When they returned John McEnroe, an analyst for USA Network, said it was the "tightest" he had seen Roddick at this year's Open.

When Johansson closed in on the first set, he had a few queasy moments. He needed four set points, but he converted the final chance with a ridiculous forehand winner down the line.

The second set turned on a sequence in the second and third games. Johansson saved three break points to level things at 1-all, then Roddick won the first three points of his serve. And then Johansson won the next five points, the last on another thundering forehand. That service break held up when Johansson did the same thing, serving at 5-3. He lost the first three points, when his serve went south, then won five in a row -- a sick, sick forehand and an unreturnable serve closing the deal.

It was two sets to love and Johansson was playing unconscious tennis, which was precisely the point. Suddenly, he was all too conscious of Roddick and his place in the game.

Roddick broke his serve for the first time in the set's third game and, accompanied by his first double-fist-pumping scream, it seemed to energize him. He won the set in 28 minutes, ending with a resounding ace.

In the third game of the fourth set, Roddick scored his second break, ripping a running forehand cross-court winner. Serving with confidence -- at one point, he won 28 consecutive points on his serve -- Roddick swiftly reeled Johansson in. He broke him again two games later, and it was on to the ultimate set.

Johansson, picking up the level of his game, looked surprisingly fresh. For the first time, the two players were playing their best tennis at the same time. Roddick had two break-point opportunities, in the third and ninth games, but Johnansson rallied to win each game.

In the end, Johansson collected three match points with Roddick serving at 4-5 and converted the last when Roddick's backhand was long.

"I lost a couple heartbreakers in Slams this year," Roddick said. "I just need to step up and win those.

"The losses like this, they make me hungrier. So hopefully I'll come back with something good."

How far has Johansson come? He lost on the same court here last year in the first round, to Mardy Fish. How far? He was scheduled to play golf with his father Leif -- who played Davis Cup for Sweden with Bjorn Borg -- in Scotland on Thursday, but, he said, "I had to change my plan."

Hewitt was the world's No. 1 player in 2001 and 2002, but hasn't been to the semis of a Grand Slam event since the 2001 U.S. Open, a string of 0-for-7. Hewitt has had the misfortune to lose in all three of this year's majors to the eventual champion -- the Australian Open in the fourth round to Roger Federer, to Gaston Gaudio in the French Open quarterfinals and Federer, again, in the Wimbledon quarters.

"It would be strange playing him in a semifinals of a Slam," Hewitt said. "I've practiced with him a lot. He's got a lot of firepower, as much as Roddick."

Maybe Hewitt knew something. He made those remarks after his day match, some five hours before Johansson stunned Roddick.

Roddick, who once played junior doubles with Johansson, also beat him in their three junior singles matches. He knew Johansson had a big game. Now, the rest of the tennis world knows that Joachim Johansson's got a lot of firepower.

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.