Safin stays focused on grass

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The Independent Online

Marat Safin, the temperamental Russian No 4 seed who threatened to take over as the dominant force in world tennis by demolishing Pete Sampras to win the US Open last year, progressed to the fourth round in SW19 yesterday.

He beat David Prinosil of Germany in five sets, 7-6, 6-3, 5-7, 1-6, 6-3 and then claimed that grass is "not my surface".

Safin enjoyed a remarkable year in 2000, narrowly failing to finish as the world No 1. He won seven titles in all, a tour-high mark for the season, and climbed from No 25 to No 2 in the rankings. But he has struggled for form this year and sustained a back injury in Dubai in March that has continued to trouble him. Dubai is the only tournament this year in which Safin has progressed beyond the quarter-finals.

"I don't think grass is my surface," said the 21-year-old. "It's very difficult to play on from the baseline. You have to serve and volley all the time. But I'm in the third round. I'm very happy."

He will be happier still when he realises he is actually in the fourth round.

Safin conceded he was "very surprised" to have reached the last 16 and said that he was happy to be compared to Goran Ivanisevic, a famous possessor, like himself, of multiple personalities. Asked if he felt there were two or three Safins inside him, he said: "I hope so, otherwise I feel lonely."

But he also said he needs to curb the anger that has led him to smash countless rackets in fits of pique. "I cannot have it inside during the whole match," he said. He meets Arnaud Clement of France next. Who knows, another win might even soothe him.

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