Originally created 02/23/03

First all-American semis on ATP Tour since 1995



MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The first all-American semifinals in an ATP Tour event since 1995 doesn't feature Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier or Michael Chang.

The names in the Kroger St. Jude tournament are Andy Roddick, Taylor Dent, Brain Vahaly and Vince Spadea.

Or as Roddick calls them: The next generation.

"I don't think anybody can replace that group. It's pretty much impossible," the 20-year-old Roddick said.

Roddick and his 20-something pals do have a lengthy list of Grand Slam and tournament titles to win before they can compare themselves to such stars as Agassi and Sampras. But Spadea, the oldest of Saturday's semifinalists at 28, thinks the current crop is showing signs of reaching the top levels.

"It's great for American tennis to see these results posted. It's just going to continue, and the consistency's going to show over time," Spadea said.

Seven Americans were in Friday's quarterfinals, and Vahaly started the round by downing Irakli Labadze of Georgia 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the first ATP semifinals of his career. Dent followed by downing Vladimir Voltchkov of Belarus 7-6 (1), 6-2 and will play Spadea, a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 winner over Mardy Fish -- in just the second semifinals of Dent's career.

Roddick, the tournament's defending champion and top seed, needed 70 minutes to beat Robby Ginepri 6-4, 6-4. He will play Vahaly.

"I bet an American's going to win," Roddick joked.

On the women's side, third-seeded Amanda Coetzer of South Africa will try to win the Cellular South Cup for her first title since 2001 after beating Laura Granville 6-4, 6-1. She will play defending champion and second-seeded Lisa Raymond, who defeated Cho Yoon-jeong of South Korea 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.

Roddick had a much easier match in the quarterfinals against Ginepri, someone he has been playing since he was a child. He had 13 aces and converted 65 percent of his first serves. The match would have finished sooner, but Roddick converted only two of his five chances to break Ginepri.

"My serve bailed me out, and I played better on the big points, which is crucial," Roddick said.

The 23-year-old Vahaly had to scramble after being up a set and a break on Labadze. Vahaly climbed 306 ranking spots in 2002 and finished in the top 100 for the first time in his career. Roddick said they are good friends who hang out and work out together.

"I'm really happy for him that he's gotten this far. I think this is the best he's done in a tour event, but I kind of want to end it," Roddick said.

Spadea has never won a title and has played in only two finals, none since 1999. But he is having his best run this year.

The 21-year-old Dent won his only title last year at Newport and started this year by losing all three of his matches and all four of his tiebreakers. Now he hasn't dropped a set in winning three matches and all four tiebreakers this week, including a 17-15 tiebreak against Mark Philippoussis in the first round.

"I've had the belief for a long time that American tennis isn't in a great amount of trouble like everyone was saying," Dent said. "It just takes time for certain people to mature tennis-wise. I think hopefully we're only a couple years away from having all-American semifinals all over the place."