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Federer outsmarts Acasuso

ROGER Federer survived a tough match on his least favorite surface yesterday, overturning a 1-5 deficit in the third set to beat Jose Acasuso of Argentina 7-6 (8), 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-2 in the second round of the French Open.

Federer has reached the last three finals at Roland Garros, but the claycourt major remains the only one of the four grand slam tournaments he has yet to win.

Against Acasuso, Federer was far from his best. But after losing seven straight games at the end of the second set and beginning of the third, the second-seeded Swiss reeled off five straight to force another tiebreaker.

"It was really tough," Federer said. "The first three sets could have gone either way."

Venus Williams also came close to an early exit in Paris, needing to save a match point before beating Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-5. Fifth-seeded Jelena Jankovic joined the seven-time grand slam champion in the third round of the women's event by defeating Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-2.

Federer was in danger of ending his record 19 straight grand slam semifinal appearances yesterday, but the 13-time grand slam champion instead rallied to get through the third set and then dominate the fourth.

The last time Federer lost before the semifinals was the 2004 French Open, falling in the third round.

Williams began her match on Wednesday, but play was suspended because of darkness after the third-seeded American lost the first set. She faced a match point while trailing 4-5 in the final set, but managed to hold serve, break Safarova and hold again for the win.

"Yesterday, I think I did too many things wrong. She just was firing for every shot and making them," Williams said. "Obviously with the delay, (there) was a lot of things to think about beforehand, what I could do different, and just tried to be as aggressive as I could."

Jankovic had an easier time against her opponent and moved a step closer to her third straight semifinal appearance at Roland Garros.

"I think I'm coming back," said Jankovic, who started this season as the top-ranked player in women's tennis. "This is the most important thing for me, especially when you saw me playing a few months ago. It was really disastrous."

The fifth-seeded Jankovic won 15 of the first 17 points, and then broke her opponent in the final game of the first set. In the second, she recovered from an early break to win four straight games, and closed out the match with her sixth break.

Seventh-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia also advanced, beating Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan 6-0, 6-2. No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and No. 24 Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada also won, but seeded French players Marion Bartoli and Alize Cornet lost.

Bartoli, the 13th seed who reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year, lost to Tathiana Garbin of Italy 3-6, 5-7, while No. 21 Cornet fell to Sorana Cristea of Romania 3-6, 2-6.

On the men's side, fifth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro defeated Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-3, 7-5, 6-0. No. 10 Nikolay Davydenko and No. 16 Tommy Robredo also advanced.


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