Marat's riveting run ends in 11 blisters and Nalbandian -
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-31-2004, 09:05 PM Thread Starter
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Marat's riveting run ends in 11 blisters and Nalbandian

Bothered by blisters, Safin exits; four Argentines left

May 31, 2004

AP - May 31, 12:44 pm EDT
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PARIS (AP) -- Marat Safin's left pinkie was mummified. Parts of four other fingers were wrapped with white tape, too, and matchbook-sized patches protected each burning palm. Splotches of rust-colored medicine stained his hands.

This was no way to try to reach the French Open quarterfinals, and Safin eventually succumbed to the pain of 11 blisters and the steady play of David Nalbandian.

Safin's riveting run at Roland Garros included two five-setters, three match points saved, a much-discussed partial disrobing, a rant about what's ailing tennis -- and it all ended in the fourth round with Monday's 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 loss to Nalbandian.

``The hands, I don't care about actually anymore, because I'm just a little bit frustrated,'' the 2000 U.S. Open champion said. ``It was another big opportunity for me to fight for a title. Just to waste this opportunity this way, it's a pity.''

The eighth-seeded Nalbandian joins No. 3 Guillermo Coria, No. 22 Juan Ignacio Chela and unseeded Gaston Gaudio to give Argentina half of a major's quarterfinal slots for the first time. And none faces each other next, a prospect that delighted Nalbandian.

``I'm a little surprised,'' the 2002 Wimbledon runner-up said. ``It's not like this every day. I hope it will be all Argentines in the semifinals.''

On Wednesday, he'll play three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten, who finished his 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 victory over No. 23 Feliciano Lopez caked with clay from a late tumble on a serve-and-volley bid that went awry.


``Look at me,'' a smiling Kuerten said moments after winning. ``This never happened to me in my life. I'm all dirty.''

Nothing was messy about Gaudio's 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Igor Andreev, who knocked off defending champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in the second round. Gaudio's quarterfinal foe will be No. 12 Lleyton Hewitt, a 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (6) winner against Xavier Malisse.

Two men's quarterfinals are Tuesday: Coria vs. 1998 champion Carlos Moya, and Chela vs. No. 9 Tim Henman, the first Englishman to get this far at Roland Garros since Roger Taylor in 1973. All women's round-of-eight matches also are Tuesday, highlighted by Serena Williams against Jennifer Capriati in a showdown between past champions.

With Safin's departure, three men are left who have won a Grand Slam title: Brazil's Kuerten, Spain's Moya, and Australia's Hewitt, the 2001 U.S. Open and 2002 Wimbledon winner.

When Safin walloped Pete Sampras 3 1/2 years ago in the final at Flushing Meadows, his potential seemed limitless. The 6-foot-4 Russian was just 20, his serve was fearsome, and only his temper and a taste for the night life appeared to stand between Safin and a slew of Slams.

Well, he's still stuck on one such title and counting, although he did reach the Australian Open final twice. It was at that event in 2003 that he tore ligaments in his left wrist, an injury that sidelined him for the season's last three majors and sent his ranking down to 77th.

Unseeded at this year's Australian Open, he upset Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi to reach the championship match, where he lost to No. 1 Roger Federer. Two gutsy comeback victories last week had No. 20 Safin thinking he could make a similar showing at the French Open -- but they also drained him and beat up his large hands.

Like a pianist or surgeon, a tennis player relies on his hands for his livelihood. It's all about feel, sensing the fuzzy ball on the racket's tightly wound strings. And against Nalbandian, a player he'd beaten in all four previous encounters, Safin not only couldn't muster the proper delicacy -- he was in pain on shot after shot.

AP - May 31, 12:36 pm EDT
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``The last four games, I couldn't play. I couldn't hit a forehand,'' said Safin, who looked as if he had taken part in a high school biology class experiment. ``I couldn't do many things.''

By the fifth game, he was looking at one hand or the other after nearly every errant stroke. With Nalbandian serving at 40-30 in the next game, Safin interrupted play to have a trainer work on his hands, the first of at least seven times he was treated for the blisters -- six on his left hand, five on his right.

Safin drew whistles and jeers from the crowd when he called for the trainer at 30-all during the fifth game of the fourth set. He walked slowly to his seat, chucked his racket down, and threw a hand in the air, as if to reply, ``Hey, get off my case.''

To his credit, Nalbandian wasn't fazed much, his only real blip coming in the tiebreaker. He used drop shots effectively throughout, five times getting clean winners, and repeatedly luring Safin to the net before whipping a passing shot.

Asked about that tactic, Safin paid Nalbandian an insightful compliment.

``He has a great touch. He's one of the most talented people,'' a subdued Safin said. ``He has really great hands. Great hands.''

Updated on Monday, May 31, 2004 3:39 pm EDT
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-31-2004, 09:19 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Marat's riveting run ends in 11 blisters and Nalbandian

Safin Goes From Earth to the Moon

Published: May 31, 2004


WELL-DESERVED raves were directed at Marat Safin after his dare-to-bare moment at Roland Garros on Thursday revealed a spontaneous character among the Stepford guys in the second round, but was this just one of his moon phases?

"I felt like pulling my pants down,'' Safin, the Chippendale Russian, said Friday. "What's bad about it?

"It's like, what, entertaining business. You try to make it fun.''

Then on Saturday, an entranced French Open crowd was thrilled to harass Safin when he called a Band-Aid break for blisters that happened to burst like Jiffy Pop at a tense point in his next match. But can Safin, the social smoker on the club scene, sustain the intrigue he has whipped up?

"You have to wake up and you have to run if you want to survive,'' said Safin, dripping drama after his five-set victory over Potito Starace.

The network that brought the world the soft-lens, sepia-toned Olympics was so tied to the Williams sisters' canned escapades that it couldn't provide more than a brief clip of Safin's matches, but should NBC become emotionally invested in a swinger with commitment issues?

Devotion to Marat Safin is truly complicated. He is an irascible, Technicolor talent who has the ability to polarize tennis crowds desperate for a men's player who will prod their sense of right and wrong.

Imagine what a perfect foe the self-involved Safin would be for the valiant Andy Roddick, who was last seen pulling a Dudley Doo-Right as he rescued hotel guests from a burning building in Rome. Imagine what a wonderful foil the temperamental Safin would be for the earnest Roger Federer, whose posse includes a pet cow named Juliette but neither an agent nor a coach on his current perch at No. 1.

Meanwhile, Safin is on his seventh coach and fifth entourage in the four years since he won the United States Open at age 20. After he prowled the Manhattan vodka circuit to celebrate his first, and only, major title, Safin ended as the No. 2-ranked player in 2000, fell to No. 11 in 2001, popped up to No. 3 in 2002, then plunged to No. 77 last year.

It's the progress chart for a bucket of crabs - scramble up, fall down, repeat. Over the past week, Safin has, once again, discovered resiliency in his adventures at the French Open.

"If he wants to be a champion again like he was,'' his latest coach, Peter Lundgren, said, "he has to have that even though he says to himself: 'I hate this game. I hate this and this and this.' "

The volatility of Safin ignites and defeats him while also fueling and fooling observers. The latest display of Safin's passion has prompted discussion of how amazing he is for the game, how quickly he could reach the kind of trans-Atlantic pop status of a Boris Becker or a Goran Ivanisevic.

It's not often you can say Pete Sampras was prophetic, but in 2000, he was the soothsayer who outlined Safin's future after Safin unleashed a string of backhand returns at his feet during the United States Open final.

"Safin could be No. 1 if he wants to do it,'' Sampras said at the time. "It's a decision you have to make about your life. You have to decide how much you want to be at the top of the game and deal with the pressures."

Safin can't make up his frazzled mind. That's the trouble with his crowd-pleasing unpredictability and the intrigue of his wild moods swings: it gives rise to his early-round exits.

How can he be good for the Tour when he isn't a regular part of it? Certainly, injuries have sabotaged his attempts at smoothing out the lurches in his career, but his uneven head has done more to harm his potential to be the Tour savior. Safin cannot be a rival for the Roddicks and Federers of the Tour if he doesn't advance far enough to meet them.

The bold act of Safin is only a peep show when he doesn't stick around long enough for an encore. His unabashed style cannot build a following when he doesn't have the legs to extend himself in a major.

This past week, fans have received a delicious taste of what life with Safin could be like. One day, he left them loving him for his moon shot. A match later, they were loathing him during Blistergate.

"You know I had to take time,'' said Safin, who gladly displayed his range of blisters after defeating Starace. "So why do I have to suffer to waste away the three hours that I've been running on the court and can't hit the backhand anymore? Why I cannot take the doctor?

"It was really sad for me that the people, they couldn't understand this simple things.''

It is never simple with Safin - a fact that makes him compelling and confounding and impossible to commit to.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-31-2004, 09:24 PM
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Re: Marat's riveting run ends in 11 blisters and Nalbandian

as I said already, I really appreciate that Marat didn't quit playing and retired.

Everyone who already had blisters at his/her hands knows how painful and disturbing it can be playing with that. And the ones Marat suffered, have been already that worse that you could (almost) say "his hands were bleeding"...

Marat is no pussy, he is very tough and was even able to show great tennis and amazingly winning a set from Nalbandian after a great comeback in the tie-break. He did not win today, but the way he competes makes him likable for me.

And more importantly, for me, Marat is a personality on court who lets the viewers participate and know what's going on in him!!!

Carlos --- C'MON Lleyton!!! --- Kiwi!!! --- Jürgen --- Juan

Best of luck to all Germans : Nicolas Kiefer | Rainer Schüttler | Lars | Florian | Tommy
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-31-2004, 09:31 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Marat's riveting run ends in 11 blisters and Nalbandian

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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-31-2004, 09:33 PM
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Re: Marat's riveting run ends in 11 blisters and Nalbandian

He should leave Roland Garros thinking he's a winner because he fought hard and didn't lose to himself, but to a solid player.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-31-2004, 09:38 PM
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Re: Marat's riveting run ends in 11 blisters and Nalbandian

Yes this was one time when his mental state or fighting efforts couldn't have been questioned, I dont fancy him to make huge impact at Wimbledon but having a good season from now to hard court season could make him a danger at US open.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-31-2004, 09:43 PM
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Re: Marat's riveting run ends in 11 blisters and Nalbandian

I finally saw the hands on tv today. Before, I wasn't too pleased about him calling the trainer frequently, but when I saw that hands today, I couldn't believe he is still playing. For a guy who used to be accused of tanking, he surely impressed me for how much he wants to play in this tournament.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-31-2004, 09:51 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Marat's riveting run ends in 11 blisters and Nalbandian

My only question: What was Marat doing to get his hands so f@#$ed up like that? Was it because they became soft last year due to inactivity?
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