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Safin to face Federer at Wimbledon

Rob Harris
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Marat Safin of Russia hits his racquet with his hand, during his Men's Singles quarterfinal against Spain's Feliciano Lopez on the Number One Court at Wimbledon, Wednesday, July 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
AP | AP

WIMBLEDON, England ” At 28 and ranked 75th, Marat Safin is seizing every opportunity to make one final run at being among the best tennis players in the world.

The former top-ranked player surprised himself Wednesday by beating Feliciano Lopez 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (1), 6-2 to advance to his first Wimbledon semifinal, where he will face five-time defending champion Roger Federer.

But despite upsetting third-seeded Novak Djokovic in the second round, Safin doesn’t think he has much of a chance against the 12-time Grand Slam champion.

“Winning four matches and now you’re starting to challenge the Federer? I don’t think,” Safin said. “I’m playing semifinals, but that doesn’t mean that I have a chance there, because the guy has won how many times already here?

“It’s just a little bit too difficult it would be for me to beat him.”

Safin’s decade-long career has had its ups and downs. He won the 2000 U.S. Open and the 2005 Australian Open, but he slipped in the rankings over the last three years.

“I’m surprised that I’m still here,” Safin said. “I’m surprised that I won two Grand Slams.”

When rain fell Wednesday afternoon at the All England Club, Safin was trailing 5-2 in the first set and his frustrations had started to show. He bounced two rackets off the grass and received a code violation for ball abuse.

But when the skies cleared he stepped up his game against the left-handed Lopez and soon leveled the match.

“I was really nervous in the beginning because he’s really uncomfortable for me,” Safin said. “I lost to him four times … I don’t like to play against him because, like I said, he changes the rhythm.”

After failing to serve out the fourth set, the Spaniard double-faulted to hand Safin the semifinal berth.

“It’s more like a relief that I made it ” first time in my life the semifinals of Wimbledon,” said Safin, who in the past used to express his disgust for playing tennis on grass. “It really means that I can play on this surface. Of course I’m happy, but just it’s a different happiness.

“It’s not the same when you’re 20 years old and the first time you make the semifinals ” you think you are flying.”

Now he wants the world to take notice of him again.

“I want to climb back to the top 20 ” that’s my goal right now,” Safin said. “If you’re not winning match(es) you’re dropping in the ranking. Also, I lost so many matches that I’ve been very close to winning, and then just something slipped away. That’s it, the momentum is gone and you lose the confidence.”

Up next for the first Russian man in the Wimbledon semifinals is Federer, the man trying to win his sixth straight Wimbledon title and 13th Grand Slam championship.

“I’d prefer to have the career of Federer,” Safin said. “But I have to deal with the things that I have in my life. A lot of injuries left and right. I’m tired of making comebacks every year.”


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