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Safin defeats Rochus in four long sets

1/23/2005

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Just a couple of days after fourth seed Marat Safin answered questions about being more calm and mature on court, he lost his temper while playing stubborn opponent Olivier Rochus. Safin managed to recover, though, and defeat Rochus 4-6, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2).

The Russian, twice a runner-up at Melbourne Park, received a
warning after smashing his racket in anger at missing a
succession of break points but battled hard to squeeze into the
last eight.

"He's a really tough player," the former U.S. Open champion
said of Rochus. "A lot of people underestimate him, and he can cause you a
lot of trouble. He reads the game well, he is very fast and has
a great forehand."

After dropping the first set, Safin pulled level by
snatching the second.

Safin's frustration boiled over in the fifth game of
the third set when, having missed three chances to break, he smashed
his racket and was given a warning by the chair umpire.

Safin finally broke the Rochus serve for the first time on
his 16th opportunity.

"I was a little upset about it (the missed break points)
because every break point is very important against him," Safin said. "Then, I couldn't break him and it was psychological and he was taking advantage. He didn't let me play."

Having regained his concentration, Safin captured the third
set on another tiebreak and repeated the feat in the fourth to
set up a meeting with 20th seed Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia.

Twelve months ago, Safin won back-to-back five-setters on
his way to the final, only to run out of steam against Roger
Federer.

This time he said he was feeling good heading into the
second week.

"It's actually better to have one match like this because if
you are winning very easily, once you have a tough match, you
might not find yourself in a very comfortable situation," he
said.