Sun, Nov 05, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Safin sees the positives in Paris defeat

OUT, BUT NOT DOWN Despite suffering only his third career defeat at Bercy to Germany's Tommy Haas, the Russian ace was happy to earn a seeding for Australia

AFP , PARIS

Russia's Marat Safin reacts after losing a point against Germany's Tommy Haas during their Paris Tennis Masters Series quarter-final at Bercy on Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

Marat Safin insisted he saw victory in defeat at the Paris Masters with his run to the quarter-finals meaning he will almost certainly be seeded at the Australian Open in January.

The mercurial Russian, champion in 2000, 2002 and 2004, slumped to only his third career defeat at the Bercy arena in 26 matches when he lost 7-6 (7/1), 3-6, 6-3 to Germany's Tommy Haas.

But for a player whose ranking slumped to 104 on the eve of the US Open in August and with his disjointed career in a tailspin, the 26-year-old was looking forward to next year with renewed optimism.

"Compared to how it was at the beginning of the year, it was a good ending," the former world No. 1 said. "I managed to finish in the top 30 which makes me seeded for the Australian Open. I did my job."

Safin won the second of his two Grand Slam titles at the opening Grand Slam of the season in Melbourne last year but a serious knee injury prevented him from defending his title in January.

It had also kept him sidelined for five months at the end of last season.

When he returned to the tour in February, it was a long struggle until he rediscovered form in the autumn helping Russia into the Davis Cup final, making the last eight of the Madrid Masters and reaching his one and only final of the year on home soil in Moscow last month.

By the time he got to Paris, he was 37 in the world and rising.

"It would be great if I could have been in the top 10 or top 20 but under the circumstances and compared to the end of last year and the start of this, I'm pretty happy with my results in the last two months," Safin said. "And the way I'm playing, it's much better than it used to be."

Safin believes his luck is about to change and hopes to capitalize on his new found optimism in the new year.

"I need a little bit more confidence, need to be a little sharper, a little luckier," he said. "It will make a huge change for next year. I also have to be careful and I have to learn a couple of things to improve so that players don't break me. Physically, I feel pretty strong. But unfortunately it came too late this year."

Haas' victory kept up his unlikely late bid for a place in the Masters Cup in Shanghai.

His win over Safin moved him closer to the US' James Blake who currently sits in the eighth and last qualifying place for the end-of-season tournament.

Despite his win, 10th seeded Haas still needs to win the final here today to leapfrog Blake, whom he beat in the third round, in the standings.

Earlier on Friday, Croatia's Mario Ancic saw his hopes of making the trip to China dashed when he was comprehensively defeated 6-3, 6-3 by fourth seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko.

Haas will face Slovakia's 17th seed Dominik Hrbaty in the semi-finals on Saturday while Davydenko takes on Spanish sixth seed Tommy Robredo.

Davydenko and Robredo have already made sure of their places at the Masters Cup, which starts next Sunday, as have Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Ivan Ljubicic, Andy Roddick and David Nalbandian who all decided to sit out the Paris tournament.

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