Thursday, August 7, 2008

Update: ATP Countrywide Classic

After early battle, Safin cruises into third round
* Ajaybir Behniwal, Bruin Sports senior staff (Contact)
* Published: Thursday, August 7, 2008

Following two upsets earlier in the day, which meant the end of the Countrywide Classic for the world's 12th-seeded Fernando Verdasco and 26th-seeded Feliciano Lopez, Marat Safin knew he had to get ahead of his opponent early.

He did just that after shaking off an unsteady first few games against Wayne Odesnik and cruising to a 6-3, 6-2 win in the second-round match.

“I played well and did what I needed to,” Safin said after the match. “I hit a couple of double faults, but I was able to come back.”

In the third game of the match, Safin was broken by his American opponent, but he displayed resilience in the next game by breaking back to even the score at 2-2.

Though Odesnik kept the match close at the onset, he was unable to convert on a game point, instead double faulting before giving Safin a 4-2 edge.

Safin then used his monstrous serve to help create a cushion that Odesnik couldn't overcome, at one time hitting an ace that even had the serving-speed display jumbling between numbers and unable to give a correct speed.

The 28-year-old Russian quickly began winning over the crowd and getting the respect he thought he deserved.

“I deserve some respect,” Safin said with a smile. “I've been on the tour for 10 years now, so I think I deserved it.”

Although the match was won with ease, there were several entertaining situations for the crowd at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, including a game with four challenges – ¬two of which were not only on the same point, but also both successful.

First, Odesnik served a ball that was called in and Safin hit a winning return.

Odesnik immediately challenged if Safin’s return was in, and the call was overturned.

Safin retaliated with a challenge of his own, claiming that the serve was long – a claim that was proven true.

The Russian went on to cruise from that point as Odesnik seemed to lose his cool and become slightly rattled.

The road hasn't been easy for Safin, however, because he is still trying to get back into top form after fighting off injuries for much of his career, since he always seems to get hurt when he catches fire.

“It's really hard to get going when I keep getting injured,” Safin said. “But I'm still running, trying to play tennis.”

After the match, Safin jokingly told UCLA alumnus and former-ATP-Tour player Justin Gimelstob that he would win a grand slam once Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal decide to retire.

Safin won't get much time to rest before his third-round match against Denis Gremelmayr, who upset the tournament's fourth-seeded Lopez, because he will take the court in doubles play tomorrow with partner and fellow countryman Igor Kunitsyn.

The two will take on a face that is fresh in Safin’s mind. On the other side of the net will be the American duo of James Cerretani and John Isner. Safin and Isner played in the first round with Safin prevailing 6-3, 6-4.

Although Safin was under the limelight at the beginning of the decade, his sister has now made a name for herself by winning several tournaments in the past few weeks, as well as making a run to the finals at the French Open.

“Before, she was the sister of the brother, but now, I'm the brother of the sister,” Safin said jokingly in an address to the fans.