For two sets, Roddick banged big serves at up to 146 mph (235 kph), collecting aces and service winners and never double-faulting, never facing a break point.
For two sets, he conjured up groundstroke winners, strong volleys, impressive returns.
And what did all of that superb play Wednesday night earn Roddick? A two-set deficit and, eventually, a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-2 loss in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, a round or two earlier than Roddick is accustomed to succumbing to Federer.
And accustomed Roddick most certainly is, dropping to 1-14 against the man who replaced him at No. 1 in the rankings 3Ѕ years ago and has been there since.
"I mean, I'm not walking off with any questions in my head this time. I'm not walking with my head down," Roddick said. "I played the right way."
Federer, though, reached his record 14th consecutive Grand Slam semifinal thanks in part by being barely better in each tiebreaker.
So, too, was Venus Williams earlier Wednesday, when she came back from a set and a break down to push her quarterfinal against No. 3 Jelena Jankovic into a third-set tiebreaker. Williams was solid over those decisive points, Jankovic was slightly shakier, and the American pulled out a 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) victory to get back to the U.S. Open semifinals for the first time since 2002.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969