Safin comeback ends in defeat
Marat Safin's comeback tournament came to an abrupt end on amidst a bout of fretting and fuming as the former world No 1 was beaten by Olivier Rochus in the second round of the Dubai Open.Updated: Mar 01, 2006 22:01 IST
Marat Safin's comeback tournament came to an abrupt end on Wednesday amidst a bout of fretting and fuming as the former world No 1 was beaten by Olivier Rochus in the second round of the Dubai Open.
After six months out with a knee injury, Safin had done superbly to beat world number five Nikolay Davydenko on Tuesday, but this time there were mistakes and minor recriminations as he went down 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 to the world number 31 from Belgium.
Safin had sometimes looked good enough to win. He served well, often hit pulverising ground strokes, saved two set points at 3-5 to regain parity in the first set, and led 4-2 in the second.
He also introduced a higher ratio of serve-volleys and net approaches into the mix, some of which began to introduce an interesting new dimension to his game.
But when things went wrong, the unpredictable Russian reacted adversely. A foot-fault in the eighth game triggered complaints to the umpire and Safin also argued about a line decision which went against him on break point.
Several times he bounced his racket angrily, and there were moments when his frustration clearly gave the steady and tenacious Rochus encouragement.
"It was a lack of matches," Safin claimed as the reason for his shortcomings. "You need to get the rhythm back: it doesn't come straight away. There's still a long way to go and many things to work on.
"It's not like I was so bad today. I never like to play him. He's a difficult opponent because he uses slice and changes a lot in his game. He plays smart. I just need matches."
But the foot fault still appeared to be needling him some time afterwards. "It's a little bit strange how I make a foot fault with my left leg and not the right," Safin said. "He said to me it's your left one, which is not right.
"It was just a couple of misses and that was it. I didn't do anything stupid, I just missed a couple of shots. That's how it is especially when you don't have a lot of matches."
Safin's most important mistake happened after he had saved set points three and four to recover from 3-6 to 5-6 in the tie-break. Presented with a modest second delivery, Safin slashed a wild backhand return of serve wide of the outer tramline to lose the set, and stood anguished, with hands and racket on his head.
It still seemed likely that Safin would fight his way back to a third set, as he had against Davydenko, especially when he played a well-controlled baseline game to break for 4-2 in the second set.
But Rochus produced some fluently excellent drives to break back and soon Safin was back into a fretting, error-prone mode again.
He had not been, he admitted, too satisfied with his movement. "I was a bit scared sometimes," he said, referring to the troublesome knee. Nor did he sound overly full of optimism about the next stages of his comeback.
"It depends on draws and on confidence," he said rather sombrely. "It's not up to me. I can have a bad draw for the next two months and what can I do? I can play Federer, and Agassi and Roddick, one after the other, and then what?"
Rochus' draw gives him an encouraging opportunity to make his second semi-final of 2006 because no seeded players are left in his quarter.
First Published: Mar 01, 2006 22:01 IST