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Roddick to go for gold at UCLA

Times Staff Writer

If the primary goal for Andy Roddick this week is to build momentum heading into the U.S. Open later this month, he’s giving himself a proper send-off at the Countrywide Classic.

Roddick, who passed on the Olympic Games in Beijing to prepare for another run at a U.S. Open title, sped through his semifinal Saturday night at UCLA, defeating unseeded Denis Gremelmayr of Germany, 6-2, 6-2.

Roddick needed only 61 minutes to get past Gremelmayr, setting up a final today at 2 p.m. against third-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, a 19-year-old from Argentina who is currently the hottest player on the ATP.

Del Potro won his 13th straight match in an earlier semifinal against American Mardy Fish, extending the tour’s longest active winning streak.

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Roddick, who will turn 26 during the U.S. Open, scheduled Aug. 25 through Sept. 7 in New York, will take any competition he can find outside Beijing this month. Roddick chose to sit out the Olympics in an effort to rest an ailing shoulder and eliminate the exhaustion that comes with international travel and competition.

“Having had that experience, it made the decision a little easier,” said Roddick, who competed at the 2004 Games in Athens.

Gremelmayr, 26, made it easier for Roddick to reach the final this week. He eliminated fourth-seeded Feliciano Lopez in Wednesday’s round of 16 and fifth-seeded Marat Safin in Friday’s quarterfinals. Roddick then made easy work of Gremelmayr in the semifinal, breaking him in the fourth game of each set to take 3-1 leads.

In the fourth game of the opening set, Gremelmayr twice double faulted and produced two unforced errors. Gremelmayr had early success with drop shots, but Roddick began running them down, then displaying some delicate shot-making of his own.

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Roddick tried a drop shot in the final game of first set, and Gremelmayr managed to nudge it back over the net. Roddick reached out, however, and slapped it into a corner for a winner. Roddick then broke Gremelmayr to win the set, getting the final point when Gremelmayr sent an off-speed shot into the net.

Roddick lost six consecutive points early in the second set, then survived two break points to win the third game. Roddick again showed his touch in breaking Gremelmayr in the fourth game, lobbing a shot over Gremelmayr as he charged the net and then landing a drop shot in front of him.

“I saw early on that he was standing way back, even on my serve,” Roddick said. “That opened up the serve and volley.”

Del Potro dispatched Fish, Roddick’s former high school roommate and doubles partner, 6-2, 6-1, in 82 minutes.

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“He’s 19 years old, which is scary,” Fish said. “He looks like he’s 25. He has got a huge game.”

Del Potro, listed at 6 feet 6, managed to run down just about everything sixth-seeded Fish smashed his way.

Del Potro, ranked No. 24 in the world, did not qualify for the Olympics because of his low ranking at the time. Since then, however, he won his first career ATP title July 13 against Richard Gasquet in Munich. The following week, he defeated Jurgen Melsewon in Austria. Both victories came on clay.

“The biggest thing is, I’m going to have to put pressure on him in the corners,” Roddick said. “He’s big, but he doesn’t have a huge serve. . . . He’s a little awkward, but you can’t teach 6-7.”

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It was Fish’s best result since beating then-No. 1 Roger Federer in a semifinal at Indian Wells in March, then losing in the title match.

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dan.arritt@latimes.com

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Featured matches

Today at the Countrywide Classic (seedings in parentheses):

2 p.m. -- Andy Roddick (1) vs. Juan Martin del Potro (3)

Followed by -- Travis Parrot/Dusan Vemic vs. Rohan Bopanna/Eric Butorac

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