Safin finally wins at Rotterdam

Feb. 18, 2002 at 7:25 PM
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ROTTERDAM, Netherlands, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Russian Marat Safin ended a three-year winless streak at the

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.

France's Sebastien Grosjean, Johansson, Tim Henman of Britain

and Federer, last year's runner-up, round out the top eight


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