Sun, May 30, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Safin defeats Mantilla in long match

FRENCH OPEN After a shot he hit for a winner, Marat Safin grabbed his shorts, pulled them down to his thighs and bent over. The umpire then penalized him one point


Argentine Guillermo Coria hits a return to Croatian Mario Ancic in the third round of the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris, Friday. Coria won the match 6-3, 6-1, 6-2.


Marat Safin celebrated a particularly nifty shot at the French Open by mooning the crowd, which raised the question: What will he do if he wins the tournament?

The mercurial Russian advanced to the third round Friday by winning a two-day marathon against Felix Mantilla, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 11-9. The match was suspended Thursday because of darkness at 7-all in the fifth set and ended 24 minutes after it resumed when Mantilla sailed a backhand long.

Afterward, Safin was still annoyed about being penalized a point for dropping his shorts early in the fifth set Thursday.

"I felt it was a great point for me," the former US Open champion said. "I felt like pulling my pants down. What's bad about it?"

To celebrate a drop shot he hit for a winner, Safin grabbed his shorts, pulled them down to his thighs and leaned over. It appeared he wore underwear that remained in place, partially obscured by his long shirt. The crowd cheered and laughed.

"Nobody complained," Safin said. "Everybody was OK. It wasn't like really bad."

He hitched up his pants with a smile, but it disappeared when chair umpire Carlos Bernardes Jr. penalized Safin a point. The Russian argued in vain with Bernardes and ITF supervisor Mike Morrissey, then applauded the ruling facetiously before play resumed.

Safin said tennis officials discourage making the sport fun.

"They tried to destroy the match," he said. "All of the people who run the sport, they have no clue. It's a pity that the tennis is really going down the drain. Every year it's getting worse and worse and worse. There has to be a radical change, and I hope it will be really soon."

Grand Slam supervisors decided not to fine Safin for dropping his pants. He was fined US$500 for abusing his racket earlier in the match.

Top women's player Lindsay Davenport, long a paragon of tennis etiquette, agreed with Safin that the point penalty against him was an overreaction.

"I thought it was a little uncalled for," she said. "He definitely wasn't doing it in a fit of anger. They're always telling us to lighten up anyway."

Davenport, seeded fifth, reached the fourth round by beating American compatriot Marissa Irvin 6-1, 6-4.

No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo of France beat Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-3, 6-2. Mauresmo and Davenport could meet in the quarterfinals.

Zheng Jie became the first Chinese woman to reach the fourth round in a Grand Slam event by beating Tathiana Garbin 5-7, 7-6 (1), 6-2. Garbin upset defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne in the second round.

No. 18 Maria Sharapova defeated fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 7-6 (3). Russian Nadia Petrova, a semifinalist last year, was upset by Marlene Weingartner 6-3, 6-2.

Petrova, seeded eighth, had five double-faults and lost her serve seven times. Her defeat guarantees a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist in that quarter of the draw.

"I'm very disappointed," Petrova said. "This French Open is screwed up. It's a very open draw this year. Anyone can be in the final."

Weingartner, 24, matched her best Grand Slam performance by reaching the round of 16. She lost to Petrova 6-0, 6-0 in their only previous meeting, which was last year.

"She's the type of player who can play unbelievable, and the next day she can play the worst," Petrova said.

Another Russian, No. 9 Elena Dementieva, advanced when No. 19 Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi retired in the third set because of cramps. Dementieva trailed 0-6, 7-6 (2), 0-1.

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