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Старый 22nd June 2004, 23:29
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Safin's Wimbledon Nightmare Continues
By Ronald Green

Blisters bursting from both hands hampered Marat Safin's efforts to hold onto the handle of his racquet in his fourth-round loss at Roland Garros last month. A different type of rupture revisited Safin today. Succumbing to concentration cracks, Safin allowed his opening-round Wimbledon match with 70th-ranked Dmitry Tursunov slip from his grip.

Serving for a two-set lead at 5-4 in the second set, Safin failed to close out the set and soon found his Wimbledon dreams buried on the Graveyard of Champions as Tursunov stopped Safin, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6(1) to advance to the second round.

Sleepwalking through several points at the end of the match, a frustrated Safin said his sole solution to his grass-court "nightmare" was to "give up"

"I give up on Wimbledon," Safin said. "(It) is definitely not the tournament for me. I give up on spending time on these courts, I hate. I hate this. I have to admit it. It's like a nightmare for me. So after a while, I just get bored. I lost completely motivation, and I just give up."

In the aftermath of his disappointing defeat, Safin spoke like a man who enjoys playing on grass as much about as much as playing Twister on a patch of poison ivy.

"I don't like to play on this surface," said Safin. "It's like a nightmare for me. After a while I just get bored. I lost motivation and I give up."

It was the first career grass-court victory for the 21-year-old Tursunov, whose previous grass-court experience consisted of an opening-round loss to Marc Lopez at Queen's Club two weeks ago.

The Moscow-born Tursunov, who moved to the Bay area of California when he was 12 and a half and is currently applying for U.S. citizenship, snapped his streak of consecutive opening-round losses at the Australian Open and Roland Garros with his third career Grand Slam victory.

It was the third opening-round Grand Slam setback of Safin's career and the first time he exited in the first round since he suffered an opening-round exit in the 2000 Australian Open. Grass has always been least conducive to Safin's game — he reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2001, but has exited in the first or second round in his four other appearances at the All England club — but based on his Australian Open runner-up result in January and the mental toughness he showed in reaching the fourth-round of the French Open, he had higher hopes for this Wimbledon fortnight.

The 19th-seeded Safin seemingly had control of the match when he had the first set in hand and held a 5-3 lead in the second. Safin had the momentum, but Tursunov took it right back. Breaking Safin's serve in succession, Tursunov won four consecutive games to snatch the second set to level the match.

Sensing Safin's bubble of concentration had burst, former Russian president Boris Yeltsin left his court-side seat at that point.

From that point on Tursunov played with more energy, enthusiasm and effort as surrendering the second set seemed to sap some of the resolve from Safin. Tursunov won 20 of his 22 first-serve points in the third set and registered the lone break to take the set, 6-3.

The Tursunov serve was a key stroke to his victory: he hit 18 aces compared to eight for Safin and won 65 of his 85 first-serve points (76 percent), while Safin claimed 55 of 81 first-serve points (68 percent).

Safin staked a 4-1 lead in the fourth set, but Tursunov broke back and the pair played into the tiebreak. Safin's extensive edge in tiebreak experience — the 2000 U.S. Open champion entered the tiebreak with a 130-104 tiebreak record in his career, while Tursunov was 5-5 — hardly helped today as Safin rushed through points as if suffering an allergic reaction to grass. Safin netted a forehand return and Tursunov followed with a forehand return winner to take a 3-1 lead.

A half-hearted run to the net concluded with Safin blocking a backhand half volley wide and Tursunov followed by blasting his 18th ace down the middle for a 5-1 lead. Safin blocked a backhand return into the net to face match point and Tursunov quickly closed with a forehand pass down the line to conclude perhaps the biggest win of his career.

For Safin, the loss marked the latest episode in his enigmatic career. Just four years ago, Safin was widely regarded as the best player on the planet after capturing seven tournament titles in 200, including thoroughly thrashing Pete Sampras in the U.S. Open final to hand the 14-time Grand Slam champion first straight-set Slam final loss. Safin's commanding victory was so comprehensive, it appeared he had the potential to rule the sport as long as you wanted. Injury and indifference have limited Safin to four championships since, but he returned to his former form with an inspired run to the Australian Open final in January.

Throughout his career, Safin has often played his best when expectations are least. At the age of 24 its time for the talented and temperamental Russian to fulfill his potential.

Источник: TennisWeek
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