PARIS - Close doesn't count. Roger Federer knows that as well as anyone.
Still, even Federer had to acknowledge he found himself in a much tighter and tougher match than he would have expected - or is used to - in the French Open's second round yesterday before producing a 7-6 (8), 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-2 victory over Jose Acasuso of Argentina.
How near did the 45th-ranked Acasuso come to a startling upset - in straight sets, no less? On four occasions, the Argentine was a point from taking the first set. After winning the second, he held a set point in the third.
Federer, whose season hasn't been up to his high standards, was up to the task each time, though.
"Mentally, I've always been very strong, but I'm not being put in a position like this very often, you know," Federer said. Then, moments later, as if to make sure everyone understood him, Federer added: "Coming through such a match is always a great feeling. Like I said, I'm not part of such close matches that often."
Particularly at this stage of a Grand Slam tournament. And particularly against anyone other than Rafael Nadal, who supplanted Federer at No. 1 in the rankings last year and edged him in five-set Wimbledon and Australian Open finals.
"I thought," Acasuso said, "I could have won this match."
But this has not been a French Open for underdogs or upsets, and no seeded men lost yesterday, when the winners included No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro, No. 6 Andy Roddick, No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 10 Nikolay Davydenko, No. 11 Gael Monfils and No. 16 Tommy Robredo.
Four seeded women went home, though none higher than No. 13 Marion Bartoli. Those moving into the third round included both Williams sisters - Venus needed three sets, Serena two - No. 5 Jelena Jankovic, No. 7 Svetlana Kuznetsova and No. 4 Elena Dementieva, who advanced when Jelena Dokic stopped playing because of a bad back while leading 6-2, 3-4.
The biggest surprise yesterday might have been how well Roddick played, given that he hadn't made the third round at Roland Garros since his 2001 tournament debut.
"There's a lot of work to go," said Roddick, the only U.S. man remaining of the nine who entered the tournament. "By no means have I accomplished anything yet."
In his 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (2) victory over 85th-ranked Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic, Roddick hit 15 aces, saved all four break points he faced and won the point on 23 of 26 trips to the net. *