Federer thwarts Santoro in straight sets

Updated: September 4, 2004, 11:32 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press