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Pain-free Safin looks for better times

Safin will gauge the state of his game in an enticing second round encounter with 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis.

sports Updated: Jan 15, 2008 16:26 IST

Russian Marat Safin, who has won the Australian Open and been runner-up twice, said on Tuesday he is expecting a better year after two seasons in the tennis wilderness.

Knee injuries have blighted Safin since he conquered Roger Federer in a epic five-set semi-final and went on to down Lleyton Hewitt in the 2005 Australian Open final.

But the moody Russian, now ranked 58, gave promise of a rankings climb with a 6-0, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) first round win over Latvian Ernests Gulbis, listed three slots below him.

Safin will gauge the state of his game in an enticing second round encounter with 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis, the 15th seeded Cypriot.

"I just need to play more matches and it's going to come up. I'm playing well, moving well," Safin said.

"My knee doesn't hurt. I don't have any injuries and if I keep up this way, it's going to be a good year."

After the uncertainties he has endured in recent seasons, Safin said he was relieved to be finally experiencing no pain during his matches.

"It's good to know that you can move around the court without any pain and you can move pretty well and you can play good tennis without any doubts on yourself," he said.

"It's pretty good feeling. But also you need some confidence because I haven't played any great tennis lately.

"So for me to start the year this way, I think it's just to continue it."