Wed, Aug 02, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Safin into second round while Roddick withdraws

AFP , WASHINGTON

Marat Safin of Russia looks at the ball as he prepares a return against Igor Kunitsyn of Russia in Washington on Monday.

PHOTO: AP

Struggling Marat Safin fought his way into the ATP Washington Classic's second round on Monday, while another former world No. 1, the defending champion Andy Roddick, withdrew because of a back injury.

Safin, ranked 92nd, defeated Igor Kunitsyn 6-3, 7-6 (8/6). After falling behind 4-1 in the tie-breaker, Safin rallied to oust his 99th-rated Russian compatriot in the 575,000-dollar US Open hardcourt warm-up event.

"I didn't play my best tennis, but I was fighting," Safin said. "It's kind of difficult. I'm still missing some confidence."

Two-time Grand Slam champion Safin, who is 12-13 this year and has not won back-to-back matches since April, booked a second-round match with France's Nicolas Mahut. He could face US top seed James Blake in the third round.

"Tomorrow is going to be an important match to give me confidence to face James Blake and a great opportunity to give a surprise," Safin said. "I can go far if I have a good match against Blake.

"In the corner of your eye, that's what you're looking for," he added.

Second seed Roddick, who beat Blake in last year's final here, withdrew after lingering pain from a lower left back injury suffered last week at Los Angeles. Roddick had reached the final a week earlier at Indianapolis.

"There's no way to hide from or mask this injury," Roddick said. "I am disappointed. I thought my game was turning around."

Safin, the 2000 US Open and last year's Australian Open winner, struggled with a knee injury that kept him sidelined from last summer until February.

Matches began in intense heat, the most grueling effort belonging to South African Wesley Moodie, who never managed a service break but defeated US teen prodigy Sam Querrey 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (8/6) after two hours and 16 minutes.

"It can be torture sometimes. Nothing can prepare you for this weather," said Moodie, who spent the past three weeks off in his homeland's mild winter.

"In the third set, your head starts to spin. You have to play it point by point and try to make it through ... I just couldn't keep my body cool," he said.

Moodie, ranked 86th in the world, needed four match points to finish off Querrey, who fired 19 aces but could not deny Moodie a second-round match against sixth seed Sebastien Grosjean.

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