Safin vows never to return after first-round defeat

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The Independent Online

Boris Yeltsin dropped in yesterday to watch two of his Russian compatriots compete against each other on Court Two. The former Russian President is a tennis nut, and would enjoy nothing more than to be invited to hit on the Wimbledon lawns. Which is more than can be said for Marat Safin, the former world No 1.

Boris Yeltsin dropped in yesterday to watch two of his Russian compatriots compete against each other on Court Two. The former Russian President is a tennis nut, and would enjoy nothing more than to be invited to hit on the Wimbledon lawns. Which is more than can be said for Marat Safin, the former world No 1.

After losing to the unseeded Dmitri Tursunov, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6, Safin, the 19th seed, unloaded his most telling shots in a self-pitying tirade against grass courts.

"I give up on Wimbledon," Safin said. "It's definitely not the tournament for me. I don't like to play on this surface, it's like a nightmare for me."

Safin is the player who once blew away the great Pete Sampras, seven times a Wimbledon champion, in the US Open final on the concrete court of Flushing Meadows, New York. He also advanced to the Australian Open final on the rubberised concrete courts of Melbourne last January.

The 24-year-old Muscovite, who is based in Monte Carlo, was a Wimbledon quarter-finalist in 2001, but yesterday he talked as if he had never won a match on the world's most celebrated grass courts.

"I can't move," he moaned. "I don't know how [the ball] is going to bounce. After a while I get bored. I lose motivation and give up. I hate it. I try to be serious. I came here one week before [the tournament] and I was practising quite a lot. I didn't go out last night, and I didn't have fun. I was trying to give myself another chance. But I think it's the last one.

"I was prepared for Paris. I was playing good. Unfortunately, I couldn't finish [because of blistered hands]."

Safin is coached by Peter Lundgren, of Sweden, who helped guide Roger Federer to the Wimbledon title last year. "But what can he do [for me] about Wimbledon?" Safin said, as if he were a lost cause in SW19. "He's trying to give me a little bit of motivation, be a little but positive. But the results are not coming yet. I don't want to speak about this tournament. It's not my territory.

"I love tennis. I just don't like grass. I think things are going to be much better in the second part of the year." Yeltsin was at least able to admire the determined Tursunov, another Muscovite, who lives in California.

Mark Philippoussis enjoyed a better start to his Wimbledon campaign with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Christophe Rochus and the Australian admits he enjoys the role of underdog. Therunner-up last year has not won on the ATP tour since January.

"Not many people are talking me up as a serious contender and that's perfect with me. I love that," Philippoussis said.

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