ABN/AMRO World Tennis Tournament with a straight sets victory
over Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty in opening-round action Monday
at the $713,000 indoor event.
Although in straight sets, Safin was pushed to tie breakers in
which he prevailed, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4). Safin had been
winless here since making the semifinals in 1999.
Hrbaty, who was sidelined with a foot injury in the Davis Cup
first-round loss to the United States last week, played his
first match since the fourth round at the Australian Open. He
eliminated Safin in the opening round at Rotterdam in 2000.
"It's difficult every time we play each other," Safin said. "We
know each other well. We always play good matches with good
rallies. I'm pretty confident, but he's always a tough
Safin, the third seed, has been hot and cold this season. He
reached his second career Grand Slam final at the Australian
Open, but fell to Thomas Johansson after winning the first set.
The 22-year-old from Moscow was blown out by Roger Federer two
weeks ago in his opening match in Russia's first-round Davis Cup
tie against Switzerland, but clinched the victory with a win
over Michel Kratochvil.
Next in line is Bogdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic, who
rallied to defeat Kratochvil, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.
The only other seeded player in action Monday was No. 8 Goran
Ivanisevic of Croatia, whose stay was short. The 1996 champion
was ousted by Swiss qualifier Ivo Heuberger, 6-7 (3-7), 4-6.
This was the fifth time in nine appearances at Rotterdam, that
Ivanisevic lost in the opening round.
France's Fabrice Santoro came back to post a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 win
over wild card Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands and British
qualifier Martin Lee beat another Dutchman, Sjeng Schalken, 7-6
(7-0), 7-6 (7-0).
Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain is the top seed this week while
1999 winner Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia, who turned 28 on
Monday, is seeded second.
and Federer, last year's runner-up, round out the top eight