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Roddick loses — his cool

American’s rage against umpire costs him a win

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NEW YORK — It all seemed so unfair to Andy Roddick: Five riveting sets against budding rival Lleyton Hewitt in the U.S. Open quarterfinals hinged on an overrule by the chair umpire.

When that critical call came, Roddick let loose with a racket-slamming, body-twisting tantrum, and in one minute unraveled 3 1/2 hours of hard work.

Simply put, he lost his cool. And five quick points later, the 19-year-old American lost a match every bit as close and compelling as the beautiful tennis painted by a couple of masters named Sampras and Agassi on the same court 24 hours earlier.

Hewitt's 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Roddick as Thursday night stretched into Friday put the 20-year-old Australian in the Open semifinals for the second straight year. He'll next face No. 7 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who eliminated a listless Gustavo Kuerten, the No. 1 seed, 6-4, 6-0, 6-3.

Friday's women's semifinals had No. 2 Jennifer Capriati vs. No. 4 Venus Williams, and No. 1 Martina Hingis against No. 10 Serena Williams. The final is Saturday night.

Roddick was left to contemplate what might have been.

"It's unfortunate that I blew up and it ended the way it did. It's pretty disheartening when you fight for that long and something like that happens," said Roddick, who a year ago was winning the junior title at the Open. "You just feel like someone reaches inside you and just takes something."

Andre Agassi was left with a similar feeling the day before after dropping a four-tiebreaker heartbreaker to Pete Sampras in an epic that, amazingly, had zero breaks of serve.

The parallels between the quarterfinals were striking, from the duration (both finished after midnight ), to the good-evil clothing choices (Sampras and Roddick came out in white, Agassi and Hewitt in black), to the sensational serving (there were only four breaks of serve in Hewitt-Roddick, and they combined for 36 aces to the 43 in Sampras-Agassi).

Thursday's first set was particularly similar: There were no break points by either player, forcing a tiebreaker won by Roddick with a 136 mph ace.

Yet, the 32nd installment of Sampras-Agassi pitted two men in their 30s who have won a total of 20 Grand Slam titles. The third installment of Hewitt-Roddick pitted two kids wearing baseball caps backward and playing all-court games that promise greatness.

How evenly matched were they Thursday? Hewitt won 165 points to Roddick's 159, Hewitt had only two more winners (55-53), and each double-faulted 10 times.

"I'm sure Lleyton and I will have many more matches," Roddick said.

They both hope future encounters won't end like this one did, with Roddick raging at chair umpire Jorge Dias.

On the first point of the final game, Roddick hit a crosscourt forehand that a linesman called good. But Dias overruled, even though the ball landed on the sideline farthest from his chair.