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Federer thwarts Santoro in straight sets

9/4/2004

NEW YORK -- For most tennis players, having about the same
number of clean winners as unforced errors translates into a pretty
good performance.

Roger Federer is not like most tennis players. Not even close.

The top-seeded Federer moved a step closer to becoming the first
man in 16 years to win three Grand Slam titles in a season, getting
to the U.S. Open's fourth round by beating No. 31 Fabrice Santoro
6-0, 6-4, 7-6 (7) Saturday.

Santoro is not an easy player to figure out. He hits two-handed
off both sides, changes speeds constantly with all sorts of spins
and slices, and disguises it all so well.

Yet Federer wasn't fazed until late in the third set; his
mistakes started increasing a bit, and he reacted to one by
chopping the net with his racket. He won on his fifth match point
in the tiebreaker, an entertaining exchange in which both players
hit shots that popped high off the net.

Federer finished with 56 winners to just 37 miscues, an
impressive ratio. In comparison, Santoro had 16 winners, 27 errors.
Federer erased the only break point he faced, while breaking the
Frenchman four times.

It's the fourth straight year Federer has made the round of 16
at Flushing Meadows, but he's never been past that stage. To get to
a possible quarterfinal showdown against two-time Open champion
Andre Agassi, Federer will have to beat No. 16 Andrei Pavel.

Little Olivier Rochus pulled off another big surprise, ousting
third-seeded Carlos Moya 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-5 to reach the
fourth round.

At only 5-foot-5, Rochus was the shortest man in the men's draw
and no match for Moya's power. But the Belgian played with spirit,
bouncing all over the court and winning 35 points on the 39 times
he charged the net.

When it was over and they met to shake hands, Rochus looked
square into the 6-foot-3 Moya's chest and congratulated the man who
swept him in straight sets at the Olympics last month.

"For me, that was the greatest win in my career," Rochus said.
"That was the best, for everything -- the game, the crowd."

Moya became the highest-seeded player on either side to lose
this week. Often mistaken by security guards for a ball boy or a junior
player, Rochus entered the tournament with a 76-101 career mark and
an 0-4 Open record.

"He never won?" Moya said. "He's been doing very well this
tournament so far. I would like to be in his position."

Now Rochus is one victory shy of .500 in New York. The Belgian
knocked off No. 27 Mario Ancic, a Wimbledon semifinalist, in the
first round, and can reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal by
beating No. 22 Dominik Hrbaty.

Andre Agassi, aiming for his third Open title, downed Jiri Novak 6-4,
6-2, 6-3. Agassi's only trouble came with his right shoe -- he took
a minute to glue his sole back into place after it appeared to tear
away.

"This week has been relatively uneventful for me, which is the
way you want it," Agassi said.

Agassi's next opponent will be Sargis Sargsian, who erased a
two-set deficit and saved two match points to beat Paul-Henri
Mathieu 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in 4 hours, 41 minutes. Add in
his second-round upset of No. 10 Nicolas Massu -- at 5:09, the
second-longest match in tournament history -- and Sargsian broke the
record for longest consecutive Open matches.

"I don't know how I did it," said Sargsian, an Armenian ranked
54th.

No. 5 Tim Henman outlasted Czech qualifier Michal Tabara 4-6, 6-3,
5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Also on the men's side, Pavel topped Lee Hyung-taik 6-4, 6-2,
1-6, 1-6, 6-4; No. 22 Dominik Hrbaty beat No. 15 Paradorn
Srichaphan 7-6 (8), 6-3, 6-3; and No. 19 Nicolas Kiefer beat Thomas
Johansson 6-4, 6-0, 6-1.