Safin leaves his mark at the French Open

Frustrated with his play, Marat Safin said he did what any normal person would do: He whacked his changeover chair with his racket, leaving a gaping hole in the wooden base.

”I destroyed the chair, I destroyed the racket because I couldn’t take it anymore,” said Safin, who lost his fourth-round match on Monday at the French Open — but not without putting on a show.

Muttering to himself, swaggering around the court, making a public show of moping over missed opportunities, the number three-seeded Safin was the crowd favourite.

Chants of ”Ma-rat!” inspired him during a nearly four-hour, seesaw match against number 15 Tommy Robredo. The Spaniard walked off the winner, 7-5, 1-6, 6-1, 4-6, 8-6.

Not known for a calm demeanour under pressure, Safin insisted he had done his best to stay composed. But there were points that got the best of him.

”You get sick and tired of it,” Safin said.

He shared the sound of the demons in his head: ”Keep on trying, keep on trying, keep on trying, keep on trying and waiting, waiting, waiting for better times to come.”

One of those times came in the third set, serving at 15-40 in the fifth game. Safin lost the point, hurled his racket at the baseline and then attacked his chair. He broke the racket as well as the chair and received a warning from the chair umpire.

”Of course, not one normal person could live with that,” he said, referring to the lost point. ”Otherwise, if I keep swallowing everything … I would go crazy.”

Safin’s powerful groundstrokes and fast serves, at times, drew gasps from the crowd. But he played inconsistently and finished with 73 unforced errors to only 46 winners.

Known for his immense talent and tempestuousness, the 1,93m Safin seldom contains his emotions.

”He’s a great player,” Robredo said. ”He’s a great guy. Sometimes he breaks a racket.”

Robredo displayed the opposite demeanour, one that he feels gave him a mental edge.

”I was very concentrated,” said the 23-year-old Robredo, who matched his best showing at Roland Garros by reaching the quarterfinals. ”In the end, I think I was more calm than he was.”

The loss ended Safin’s quest to add a French Open title to his United States Open and Australian Open championships.

”I was fighting until the last minute, until the last point,” Safin said. ”I don’t have any regrets.” – Sapa-AP

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Jocelyn Gecker
Jocelyn Gecker works from San Francisco. Associated Press Jocelyn Gecker has over 400 followers on Twitter.

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