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Safin overcomes delay, big-serving Philippoussis

6/22/2005

WIMBLEDON, England -- Top seed Roger Federer glided into the Wimbledon third round with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Czech Ivo Minar on Wednesday.

The Swiss, ranked No. 1 in the world, chalked up his 31st successive grass-court victory by defeating his 99th-ranked opponent for the second time this season.

While Minar had managed to wrangle a set off Federer in
Dubai earlier this year, he came nowhere near repeating that
feat on Wednesday.

Federer broke the 21-year-old Minar at the end of each of
the first two sets before piling on the pressure in the third.
Federer's ninth ace of the contest was enough to end Minar's
challenge after 82 minutes.

"I thought I played all right," Federer said. "Just hang in
there to wait for my chance, and it came always at the end of
the set, when he was serving against the set, so that was
obviously a good time. Then I broke him straight early in the
third. So the breaks were definitely at the right time."

The 23-year-old Federer, who is coming off his third straight
title at Halle, has won 31 straight matches on grass since
falling in the first round here to Mario Ancic in 2002. He
awaits No. 25 Nicolas Kiefer of Germany, who defeated Italian
Alessio Di Mauro in straight sets.

Also Wednesday, Marat Safin's one break of serve
was more than enough against Mark Philippoussis.

The fifth seed from Russia, Safin saved all five of his break
points -- three on set point in the first set -- as he reached the
third round with a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4
triumph over Philippoussis in a battle of hard servers.

Serving at 4-5, 0-40 in the first set, Safin won five straight
points, then claimed the set in a tiebreaker when the Australian
wild card netted a backhand volley. Safin trailed in the
second-set tiebreaker 4-2 before winning five straight points.

He recorded the only break of the match in the seventh game of
the third set. Serving for the match in the ninth game, Safin
fell behind 15-30 but responded with an ace, a service winner
and an ace to beat Philippoussis for the fifth time in six
lifetime meetings.

The Australian Open champion, Safin advanced past the second
round for just the second time in five tries here, with his best
result a quarterfinal showing in 2001. He next plays No. 26
Feliciano Lopez of Spain, who beat British wild card David
Sherwood 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

"If you're not having fun, it's impossible to do anything good
here," Safin said. "You can't have any expectations if you are
suffering and if you are struggling. That's what happened to me
for the past -- actually, during all my career, except one lucky
year that I made it in quarterfinals. So now that I'm
enjoying, of course I have my expectations.

"Unfortunately, I don't have really easy draw this year. But I
probably deserve it, because the years before I had the easy
ones and I couldn't make even past the first round. I have to
pay the price, I guess. But I think the way I'm playing, it's
OK."

Third seed Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, the 2002 Wimbledon
champion, had a sub-par third set but otherwise looked sharp in
a 6-2, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 triumph over Czech Jan Hernych.

Hewitt, who skipped the French Open with a rib injury, has
reached the final of the last two Grand Slams he's played,
falling to Federer at the 2004 U.S. Open and to Safin at the
Australian Open in January.

In the third round, Hewitt will play American qualifier Justin
Gimelstob, who defeated 29th seed and 2004 Olympic champion
Nicolas Massu of Chile 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (0).

"I feel pretty good," Hewitt said. "I can't complain right at
the moment. The body feels good. Obviously, to get a tough
four-set match today under my belt, that's just going to hold me
in better stead for the longer I go in the tournament."

Eighth seed Nikolay Davydenko of Russia held a 7-6 (4), 2-1
lead over Swede Jonas Bjorkman when he retired with a wrist
injury. Davydenko was a semifinalist at the French Open.

In early men's action, No. 24 Taylor Dent defeated fellow
Californian Kevin Kim 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, to advance to the third
round. He next will face Czech Tomas Berdych, who routed German
Lars Bergsmuller 6-3, 6-3, 6-1.

"I was slipping a little bit in the first set, but I feel like
I'm moving OK," said Dent, who was facing Kim for the first
time. "You know, he hits some short balls, and I'm no Hewitt or
James Blake, but I'm lumbering around."

In a first-round match completed Wednesday, ninth seed Sebastien
Grosjean of France rallied for a 3-6, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4
victory over compatriot Michael Llodra.

Grosjean trailed in the fifth set 4-3 when play was suspended
by darkness Tuesday, but he won three straight games Wednesday
to set up a second-round match with Romanian Victor Hanescu.

Other seeded winners were No. 21 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile and
No. 23 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain.

Ancic, the 10th seed from Croatia who won his first ATP title at
the Ordina Open on Sunday, bested Danai Udomchoke of Thailand
7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

A semifinalist here last year before losing to Andy Roddick, Ancic will play Gael Monfils of France in the third round. The 18-year-old Monfils, the 2004 juniors champion here, beat No. 22 Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia 6-3, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.