Sleepy Safin wakes up in time to reach RCA semifinals

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The Independent Online

Marat Safin woke up just in time to reach the semifinals of the RCA Championships in Indianapolis.

Marat Safin woke up just in time to reach the semifinals of the RCA Championships in Indianapolis.

Because his third-round match was rained out on Thursday, Safin had to play twice on Friday. He started by beating Karim Alami of Morocco 6-4, 6-4, then went back to bed before his match on Friday night against 12th-seeded Sebastien Grosjean of France.

Still a bit groggy, Safin dropped the first set 6-0, but the third-seeded Russian came on strong to win the next two sets 6-3, 6-4.

"In the first match, I was completely out of the court. I was in bed," Safin said of his win over Alami.

He said he didn't wake up until two hours before his match with Grosjean.

"I wasn't ready to play the first set, and he (Grosjean) played very good," Safin said. "I warmed up for 15 minutes, and I played the second and third set just like a normal match."

Safin planned to get some more rest before Saturday night's semifinal against seventh-seeded Tim Henman of Great Britain.

"It will be a very simple game," Safin said. "He (Henman) will serve well. He will try to push me under pressure, the same way I will play. And who is going to be strong, who is going to be a little bit more lucky, a little bit more concentrating is going to win."

The other semifinal Saturday paired 19-year-old Australian Lleyton Hewitt, the No. 5 seed, against top-seeded Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil.

Safin's countryman, second-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov, didn't fare as well in his quarterfinal match with Henman on Friday.

Kafelnikov also had to play twice, but he wasn't the same after eliminating Gianluca Pozzi of Italy earlier in the day.

Henman beat Kafelnikov, the second seed, when the Russian double-faulted four times, twice in a first-set tiebreaker, and lost 7-6 (4), 6-2.

"I don't think I volleyed that badly," Kafelnikov said. "I just got a few inches wide, a few inches long. I got a little bit unlucky there."

Kafelnikov was up 2-0 in the tiebreaker before he double-faulted twice. Henman, who hasn't won a tour title since October 1998, broke Kafelnikov in the second game of the second set.

"I'm really pleased, very satisfied with the way I played," Henman said. "I thought Yevgeny was playing perhaps the better tennis in the first set, and he was really onto his groundstrokes."

Hewitt advanced with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Sweden's Thomas Enqvist, and Kuerten, the ATP Champions Race leader, needed just 63 minutes to oust No. 10 Wayne Ferreira of South Africa 6-3, 6-3.

Enqvist had been on a roll since winning last week's Tennis Masters Series tournament in Cincinnati, but both players thought Enqvist's three-set win over Carlos Moya on Thursday took its toll.

"He's played a lot of tennis," Hewitt said. "It's always hard, I suppose, going out there after he won such a big event last week and trying to perform."

Enqvist faded fast after surviving four break points in the eighth game of the second set, only to have Hewitt finally break his serve. Hewitt finished the Swede with 115- and 124-mph aces in the ninth game.

"I don't feel so well," said Enqvist, the 1995 champion. "I was really tired after the match yesterday, and I was not fit enough."

Hewitt won for the 47th time in 58 matches this season.

"That's one of the best matches I've played all year," Hewitt said. "I hit the ball great out there. Toward the end of the second set, I started really popping my serve."

Results from the $870,000 RCA Championships ATP Tour hard-court tournament:

Singles - Third Round

Yevgeny Kafelnikov (2), Russia, def. Gianluca Pozzi, Italy, 6-3, 6-3. Marat Safin (3), Russia, def. Karim Alami (13), Morocco, 6-4, 6-4.


Gustavo Kuerten (1), Brazil, def. Wayne Ferreira (10), South Africa, 6-2, 6-3. Lleyton Hewitt (5), Australia, def. Thomas Enqvist (4), Sweden, 6-3, 6-3. Tim Henman (7), Great Britan, def. Yevgeny Kafelnikov (2), Russia, 7-6 Marat Safin (3), Russia, def. Sebastien Grosjean (12), France, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Doubles - Second Round

Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde (1), Australia, def. Jonathan Stark and Eric Taino, United States, 6-3, 6-2. Ellis Ferreira, South Africa, and Rick Leach (2), United States, def. Marc-Kevin Goellner, Germany, and Aleksandar Kitinov, Macedonia, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4). Neville Godwin, South Africa, and Michael Hill, Australia, def. Gustavo Kuerten, Brazil, and Harel Levy, Israel, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4.


Jonas Bjorkman, Sweden, and Max Mirnyi, Belarus, def. Sebastien Lareau and Daniel Nestor (4), Canada, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 7-6 (3). Ellis Ferreira, South Africa, and Rick Leach (2), United States, def. Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett (7), Zimbabwe, 6-2, 6-4. Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, Australia (1), def. Marius Barnard and Robbie Koenig, South Africa, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (2).