Thu, Nov 02, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Safin leads four-pronged Russian assault in Paris

AFP , PARISAP, HASSELT, BELGIUM AND QUEBEC CITY, CANADA

Triple champion Marat Safin led a four-pronged Russian assault on the Paris Masters title on Tuesday.

The former world number one battled back from a set and a break down to clinch a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Swedish 18th seed Robin Soderling while Davis Cup teammates Nikolay Davydenko and Dimitry Tursunov, as well as Igor Andreev, joined him in the last 16.

Safin, without a title since his Australian Open victory last year, recorded his 23rd win in 25 matches at the Bercy arena and moved a step closer to adding to his 2000, 2002 and 2004 triumphs.

Safin's win was also a much-needed confidence booster for the two-million-euro tournament hit by the absence of world top two Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as well as three other members of the top 10.

Former world number one Safin, without a title since his 2005 Australian Open success, will face French 16th seed Richard Gasquet or Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka for a place in the quarter-finals.

Injury-hit Safin, whose ranking slipped to 104 on the eve of the US Open in August, is playing his seventh consecutive week and the effort has paid off.

Coming into Paris, the 26-year-old was at 37. However, he's feeling the pace.

"It's been a terrible year for me," he said. "Disappointments have followed disappointments. I just want to get this year over and begin 2007 with a new start."

Safin was joined in the last 16 by Davydenko, the fourth seed, and 15th seeded Tursunov.

Davydenko, the top ranked player left in the tournament after the withdrawal of Federer, Nadal and David Nalbandian, was in blistering form taking just 36 minutes to destroy Belgian lucky loser Christophe Rochus 6-0, 6-0.

Davydenko and Tursunov will meet in the next round with both men desperate to play in their country's Davis Cup final against Argentina in Moscow in December.

The pair, as well as Safin, are battling to secure the two singles berths in the team.

"Even if I beat Nikolay 6-0, 6-0, he will play in the final," insisted Tursunov, who edged out Davydenko for a place in the team which beat the US in the semi-finals.

"I'm playing really badly," he said.

Tursunov booked his place in the third round when Nicolas Almagro retired due to a thigh strain with the Spaniard trailing 6-3, 5-4.

To complete a memorable day for Russia, Andreev then saw off French 20-year-old Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-4.

It was Andreev's first match on the tour since April when he underwent surgery to repair knee ligament damage.

Asian No. 1 Paradorn Srichaphan was forced to quit his match against Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela because of an ear problem when he was trailing 6-3, 3-0.

Chela now faces Britain's Andy Murray, the 13th seed, for a place in the third round.

Spain's David Ferrer, the 11th seed, slumped to a 6-3, 6-4 defeat to the US' Robby Ginepri.

Ginepri will face either defending champion Tomas Berdych, the eighth seeded Czech, or Belgium's Olivier Rochus for a place in the next stage.

Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean, the 2001 Paris champion, reached the next round with a 6-1, 7-6 (9/7) win over Xavier Malisse, his ninth win in nine matches against the Belgian.

Grosjean will now meet Spanish sixth seed Tommy Robredo.

Robredo is one of the men fighting for the three remaining places in the Masters Cup in Shanghai.

Francesca Schiavone routed Meghann Shaughnessy 6-2, 6-1 in less than 50 minutes to begin her bid to reach consecutive finals at the Gaz de France Stars on Tuesday.

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