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Safin thanks Wimbledon for life in slow lane

Marat Safin summoned the spirit which once made him the most feared player in the world to send Novak Djokovic crashing out of Wimbledon.

sports Updated: Jun 26, 2008 17:07 IST

Marat Safin summoned the spirit which once made him the most feared player in the world to send Novak Djokovic crashing out of Wimbledon.

He celebrated by thanking the All England Club for the slow courts while admonishing them for the spiralling price of the traditional strawberries.

"Thanks for making the courts slower," said the enigmatic Safin after his stunning 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 win on Wednesday over Djokovic, the third seed and Australian Open winner.

"The courts have been getting slower. They are not like they were eight years ago when they were really fast. Now you can play from the baseline and nobody even gets close to the net," said the 28-year-old.

But Safin still has his reservations over Wimbledon where his best performance remains a run to the quarter-finals in 2001.

"The strawberries are too expensive. It's true. They don't have enough for dessert," he said.

For Safin, a former world number one who captured the 2000 US Open title and the Australian Open five years later, Wednesday's victory was just like old times.

He fired backhand winners down the line, was consistent and accurate on his first serve and showed a lightness of touch with the volley.

Where Wednesday's win came from is anyone's guess.

Until this year's Wimbledon, Safin had won back-to-back matches only twice all year with his ranking having slumped to 75 in the world.

In contrast, Djokovic came into the tournament as a Grand Slam champion, a runner-up at Queen's and a serious threat to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

"I was starting to get a little bit desperate because I've been working really hard week after week," said Safin.

"The results were not coming. It's a little bit sad to see other people winning and working only part of the time that I'm doing."

Despite his stunning win, Safin isn't expecting a return to Centre Court for his third round clash against Italy's Andreas Seppi and is prepared for the schedulers to send him to the outer reaches of the All England Club.

"I once played on Court 11, which is almost in another club," he smiled.

"I'm 75 in the world and I'm playing against an Italian guy. So these matches you need to get through. You don't have any challenges out there, (you don't have) the Hawk Eye system. The chair umpire may be half sleeping."

The 21-year-old Djokovic, whose 10th and last double fault handed Safin victory, admitted he may have been in awe of the Russian with whom he practiced as a junior.

"When I was a junior I looked at him as an idol. He was top of the world. I have a lot of respect for him. Maybe that played a role today," said the Serbian.

"He's known for his mental instability in some ways. But he's still a great player. He's still not too old. He's playing well. He's moving well. He wants to step it up again and try to get far in a major."