Tuesday, August 26, 2008

NEW YORK — It's do as I say, not as I do when it comes to Marat Safin and his up-and-coming sister Dinara Safina.

Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open men's singles champion, is well known for his hard-hitting and his explosive temper. His boiling point was reached again Tuesday during his 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 first-round win over Vince Spadea.

Serving to stay in the fourth set, Safin was called for a foot fault on the first point of the 4-5 game, and then was pushed to the brink again at deuce. While in his serving motion, Safin was again called for a foot fault - this time because his back foot crossed the centre line.

The little-known rule gave Spadea the game advantage and put him in position to clinch the fourth set on the next point.

"It's stupid rules that somebody made in, I don't know, 1850, and now they give me problems with these things," the still-perturbed Safin said. "It shouldn't be that way."

Safin grumbled at the linesman on the far end of the court and voiced his displeasure to chair umpire Carlos Bernardes. Speaking to him in Spanish, and in the universal language of frustration, Safin punctuated his remarks with expletives in English that were clearly heard.

He even sat on his chair mid-game in exasperation. After the set was lost, he went off court with tournament referee Brian Earley and took up the argument with him, to no avail.

Safin said, except for earlier this season in Cincinnati, he never had anyone call a foot fault against him on a second serve. He pleaded to be given a warning the first time he committed the fault before it would cost him a serve.

"I've already been on tour 10 years, and I want to enjoy my tennis," he said. "I don't want to fight anybody. I don't want to face any problems on the court. It's not like I'm starving to death and I need to do something original to earn money. I want to enjoy. It's so simple.

"I just want to have a nice match, win or lose, and whatever happens go home. That's it. I don't want to face the foot faults and all these things."

Earlier Tuesday, Safina - the No. 6 seed - moved into the second round by beating New Jersey's Kristie Ahn 6-3, 6-4.

She is learning a lot from her big brother, especially how to act on court. Well, sort of. In the past, meltdowns have caused Safin to lose focus and, in turn, matches.

"I would behave like a baby and crying and all this. He hated it," the 22-year-old Safina said. "He was always, 'Come on! You have to grow up in your mind. You cannot behave like this. ... That's why he's like learn from my experience. Don't do this."

Safina, a finalist this year at the French Open and the Beijing Olympics, is one of six women who could be ranked No. 1 on the women's tour by the end of this tournament.

"I think if she will do everything opposite of what I've been doing throughout the years, she will be Number One in the world for a long time," Safin said. "That's as simple as it is.

"Two tough finals ... and I think the third one is here. She should take her chance. ... I think she is ready to win the first Grand Slam. I'm really proud of the way she's handling the pressure and the way she's handling herself."