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Roddick wins third straight Melbourne title in tuneup for Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia - Andy Roddick won his third consecutive Kooyong Classic title and said he'd happily exchange them all for one at the Australian Open.

MELBOURNE, Australia - Andy Roddick won his third consecutive Kooyong Classic title and said he'd happily exchange them all for one at the Australian Open.

The American defeated Marcos Baghdatis 7-5, 6-3 Saturday in the warmup to the Australian Open.

"Is there a three-for-one special deal - 3 AAMIs for an Aussie Open?" Roddick joked with the crowd, excusing himself if he sounded ungrateful.

Roddick beat top-ranked Roger Federer at the Kooyong exhibition last year, then lost a lopsided semifinal to the Swiss star at the Australian Open.

He did not drop a set this year as he matched Michael Chang's three straight titles in the 1990's. Andre Agassi won three titles in four years in a streak broken by Pete Sampras in 2002.

Now, Roddick wants to improve his record at the Australian Open, where his best results have been semifinals appearances in '05 and '07.

"I'm still young and hungry at 25," Roddick said.

He helped the United States win the Davis Cup last month, and is hoping the momentum will end a run of 16 majors without a title since his lone Grand Slam win at the 2003 U.S. Open.

"It was great to win that Davis Cup - to get to feel something like that so recently makes you want to win even more," he said.

Roddick started and finished with aces against Baghdatis, who was runner-up to Federer in the 2006 Australian Open.

The 22-year-old Cypriot was a late inclusion in the eight-man invitational draw at Kooyong after Federer withdrew because of a stomach illness.

Baghdatis has a tough opening week at Melbourne Park, facing 2002 champion Thomas Johansson in the opening round in a difficult section of the draw that also includes 2005 champion Marat Safin, 2005 finalist Lleyton Hewitt and No. 3-ranked Novak Djokovic.

"I know it's a bit tough, but life is tough - at least, my life was tough - so I guess I have to accept it and deal with it and try to do as best as I can," Baghdatis said. "I had good preparation here, played three guys in the Top 10, which is a great way to prepare for a Grand Slam. I'm ready for the Open."

Roddick, in the same half of the Australian Open draw as No. 2 Rafael Nadal, plays qualifier Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic in a first-round match Monday, with the possibility of meeting 18-year-old American Donald Young in the second.

He did not drop a service game in wins here over Ivan Ljubicic, Safin and Baghdatis. He fired 10 aces on Saturday and says he's close to the top of his game.

"Getting through an event like this and not getting broken is a pretty good effort ... hopefully it's indicative of what I can do in the next couple of weeks," Roddick said. "Winning this event just means I'm well prepared for the Aussie Open."

Roddick broke Baghdatis' serve in the 12th game of the first set after a small blip in the 11th, when he wasted three game points with forehand errors and disputed a line call on what he thought was an ace.

He broke Baghdatis' second service game in the second set and closed out at love with an ace.

Safin, the only man to beat Federer at Melbourne Park in four years, finished off his preparations for the season's first major with a 6-3, 6-3 win earlier Saturday in the third-place match against Fernando Gonzalez, a finalist at last year's Australian Open.

No. 7 Gonzalez is seeded to meet Federer in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.

Federer will begin his bid for a third consecutive Australian title without a competitive match in the leadup.

 
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