Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Marat Safin

Boos for self-destructive Safin

Marat Safin, whose run to the Wimbledon semi-finals raised hopes that the sport's most charismatic and talented underachiever might at last be making another surge, instead became embroiled in another controversial failure yesterday in the first round of the Masters Series.

The former world No1 from Russia, now No38, swore at an official who foot-faulted him, argued lengthily with the umpire, hurled his racket and was booed repeatedly by the crowd before walking to the net and shaking hands with Dmitry Tursunov even though his opponent's serve on the last point had been called a fault.

Safin will probably deny that he threw the match, insisting that in fact the line call was wrong, but it is impossible to be sure because he refused to come for interview after his 7-6, 6-4 defeat, thereby risking a fine from the ATP.

Many of his opinions were nevertheless audible to spectators. "Is that the best decision you can make? I served three double faults because of that," he screamed at the line judge who suddenly foot-faulted him at 4-4 in the second set. Injuries have hampered him cruelly, but so have self-destructive drives, and at the age of 28 time is short.

Tursunov, his partner in the Davis Cup-winning Russian team of 2006, made a plausible case in defending him. "I can really sympathise with some of the angry stuff towards the end because it's really not the best time to call a foot fault," he said. "If he's making that many he should have been told that throughout the match."

Britain's Andy Murray, meanwhile, got his wish to have as long as possible in which to recover from the familiar inflammation sustained in Toronto last week and caused by the congenital split patella in his right leg. He begins today against Sam Querrey, a 6ft 6in, dangerously steep-serving, top-50 American.

Source: The Guardian