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Safin relieved to see the back of Wimbledon

sports Updated: Jun 24, 2009 07:27 IST
Safin relieved to see the back of Wimbledon

Marat Safin admits he is glad to see the back of Wimbledon after the former world number one suffered a surprise first round exit in his final appearance on the grass courts he has grown to loathe.

Safin was making his farewell to the All England Club before he retires later this year, but perhaps fittingly, the Russian's valedictory tour was brief and typically bizarre as he was defeated 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 by American qualifier Jesse Levine.

The former Australian and US Open champion has never hidden his dislike of a surface that has left him red-faced on many of his visits to south west London.

Even last year's run to the semi-finals, where he was beaten by Roger Federer, won't make Wimbledon a more pleasant memory for Safin when he gets around to reflecting on the highs and lows of his career.

So, when asked how he felt about playing at Wimbledon for the last time, perhaps it was no surprise Safin said: "Relieved. Pretty much relieved. It's not the perfect way to finish the Wimbledon story but that's life.

"It was tough for me to move on court here, especially when I'm a tall guy, who has been struggling for a couple of years with injuries.

"There haven't been many matches here that I played well. So I think against (Goran) Ivanisevic in 2001 when I had a chance to win it, the year he won. And last year against (Novak) Djokovic. That's it."

Safin only made it past the third round here twice, in 2001 and 2008, but even on his favourite hard courts the suspicion remains that, for a player blessed with the talent to beat Pete Sampras in a US Open final, he will finish his career as an under-achiever.

Yet Safin, whose sister Dinara Safina is the women's world number one, is adamant he has no complaints about his achievements. His only regret was the knee injuries that affected his game in the final years of his career.

"You know what, in the history of tennis, every single player is an underachiever. (Andre) Agassi should have been winning 15 Grand Slams. Sampras should have been winning 20 Grand Slams. Federer should be winning 25 already," he said.

"Everybody could do better. I should probably have won a couple of more, but I'm pretty satisfied with what I did.

"Many things happened in my career. The life was pretty intense, so I can't complain. There were a lot of changes, a lot of difficult situations, a lot of fun situations.

"But I think I've managed to do pretty well in my career. Unfortunately, I was a little bit unlucky with my injuries. That's the only thing that I regret, but I cannot do anything about it.

"I made a couple of great comebacks. But eventually the knee injury was really tough to come back from. It took quite a long time to play tennis without any pain."

As the long, lonely hours of rehabilitation and endless time spent in hotels and locker rooms away from home start to become a distant memory, Safin - who claims to have broken 700 racquets in his career - may realise that he could have achieved more.

But for he is determined to enjoy his last few months on the circuit.

"It's the last year, my last trips to the places that I really like," he said.

"I'm still not winning a lot of matches, but it's still nice to come for the last time to the tournaments.

"I will definitely have a huge vacation. First of all I think rest because there's been a lot of pressure throughout the years, a lot of tough moments.

"I need to just cool down. I need to get out of my brain and start from a new page."