Federer joins Hewitt, Safin, Roddick in quarterfinals

August 19, 2005 12:01 AM

Associated Press Writer

MASON, Ohio (AP) -- Roger Federer, gathering momentum with every match, advanced to the quarterfinals of the $2.45 million Cincinnati Masters by beating Olivier Rochus 6-3, 6-4 Thursday night.

Jose Acasuso of Argentina beat Luis Horna of Peru 7-6 (5), 7-5 in the other late match and will face Federer on Friday.

Five of the top six seeds remain.

"He was just too good,'' Rochus said. "If you are going to beat him, you have to beat him in the first round. He gets better the more matches he plays.''

Federer, ranked No. 1 in the world, has won eight titles already this year, including Wimbledon. He is 61-3 -- 35-1 on hardcourts.

"I played a good match,'' Rochus said. "He's just better than me in almost every way.''

It wasn't always so. Rochus, who is from Belgium, and Federer, who is from Switzerland, were teenage doubles partners. They won the Wimbledon junior doubles title in 1998.

Before that, Rochus beat him regularly.

"I remember him when we were 13 years old. He was always losing 6-0, 6-1 against everybody in the under-14 tournament,'' Rochus said.

But that was then. Federer, who just turned 24, has been No. 1 in the world for 81 weeks, the seventh-longest period ever.

"We were almost laughing at him, and now he's laughing at us,'' Rochus said. "He's No. 1, easy. And really, when he was young, at the beginning, he was really bad.''

As professionals, the two have met only twice. Federer beat Rochus 6-3, 6-1 earlier this year at Miami.

"Both times I had to serve well to get the upper hand,'' Federer said. "I thought I should be aggressive, take my chances, put the pressure on him. He's a good counter-puncher.''

Nearly everything Federer did worked. He served 14 aces, traded ground strokes with Rochus and rushed the net repeatedly.

Rochus won a few points with lobs and passing shots when Federer did that, but not nearly enough.

"I definitely had the feeling I was playing more aggressively than I was the first two matches because, maybe, it's just a better feeling I have now from the baseline,'' Federer said.

Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin and Andy Roddick also advanced.

Hewitt, the third-seeded player from Australia, beat Mario Ancic of Croatia 6-1, 6-4. Fourth-seeded Safin of Russia beat Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia 6-0, 6-3.

No. 5 Roddick downed Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina 7-6 (4), 6-2, again unleashing his big serve to win a tiebreaker. He also did that Wednesday night against Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Roddick's match was suspended for 44 minutes because of rain. After the delay, each player held serve twice to reach 6-6.

Roddick used a 145-mph ace to go ahead 5-4 in the tiebreaker, then got Chela to hit wide on the next two points.

Roddick broke Chela in the third game and seventh games of the second set.

The American served 14 aces, but none approached the tiebreaker serve or the two similar ones in the mid-140 mph range he used to help win a tiebreaker Wednesday night.

"I think a lot of it has to do with Adrenalin,'' Roddick said.

But he acknowledged that he was trying to be more aggressive in his matches.

"I've tried to serve with a little bit more authority,'' Roddick said. "I felt like I needed to become more aggressive. My aggression out there is my weapon.''

Hewitt had his match in hand as soon as he broke Ancic in the second game.

"I was happy the way I hit the ball. I think I moved a lot better, as well,'' said Hewitt, still regaining his strength after quitting a first-round match a week ago in Montreal because of a severe stomach virus.

"Not playing a lot of matches the last couple of weeks, I think that's the biggest thing in my game is the movement side of it,'' he said.

Safin evened his career record against Hrbaty at 7-7.

"I tried to be as aggressive as I can and try to get into the match very quickly,'' Safin said. "Because with him, with the style of game that he has, it's really difficult to get used to.

"He's the kind of player that you need to be really careful and really focus from the beginning of the match.''

In other matches, sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko of Russia beat Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-3, 6-4; Mikhail Youzhny of Russia beat Gael Monfils of France 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, and Robby Ginepri of the United States beat Carlos Moya of Spain 6-3, 6-4.

Friday's other quarterfinal matchups are Safin vs. Ginepri; Davydenko vs. Hewitt; and Roddick vs. Youzhny.