Friday, August 29, 2008

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Former champion Marat Safin traded booming groundstrokes with Tommy Robredo for three sets before fading to a 4-6 7-6 6-4 6-0 defeat by the 15th-seeded Spaniard on Friday in the second round of the U.S. Open.

"Sometimes you have a good day, sometimes you have a bad day," the 2000 champion said. "Today I was struggling."

Twice the Louis Armstrong Stadium match was interrupted in the second set by rain and Safin squandered opportunities to seize the advantage.

Leading 3-2 in the second-set tiebreaker he lost five of the last six points as 15th-seed Robredo won it 7-4 to level the match.

"If I would have won the second set, I should have won the match probably," said the former world number one who also triumphed at the 2005 Australian Open before tumbling down the rankings to his current number 44.

Safin, 28, battled the Spaniard on serve in the third set before errors began to seep into his game and Robredo broke him in the 10th game for a two sets to one lead.

That seemed to take the life out of Safin, who went down meekly in a 24-minute fourth set.

"The rain was going on and off and I couldn't get into the game. I missed a few points in the tiebreak," he said.

"The third set was very close and the fourth set I lost it completely. It just slipped away and that's it," said the fiery Russian, who in moments of frustration slammed his racket to the ground and smashed balls against the back curtain.

"Too much frustration in the second and third set."

Safin failed to successfully follow up his spirited run at Wimbledon, where he reached the semi-finals before falling to Roger Federer.

"One good result throughout the year, I don't think you're hoping for something bigger," Safin said about not carrying any expectations into Flushing Meadows.

Instead, Safin found himself pushed around the court by the pin-point topspin forehands and cut backhands from Robredo, who advanced to a third-round match against 19th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.

The demoralised Russian said he would not stick around in New York to cheer for his sister Dinara Safina, who could claim the world number one ranking with an Open triumph.

"No I'm going home. I've had enough already," said Safin. "I've been here for too long. I need to go home."