Safin in shock after loss to SA outsider

Marat Safin crashed out of the ATP Indianapolis Open in spectacular style on Wednesday, falling in straight sets to world number 512 Wesley Whitehouse of South Africa.

Safin, the two-time Grand Slam champion from Russia, held his head in his hands as he tried to explain what when wrong in a 6-1, 6-4, second-round loss to the 27-year-old journeyman, who has won only two matches this season at the ATP level.

“I never felt comfortable on the court,” said Safin, a former world number one. “He played well, and I was never in the match.”

Whitehouse, who made a charity hospital visit for the tournament a few hours before his match, called the win “the biggest of my career”.

“I returned really well and put pressure on him from the beginning,” he said. “That was my game plan from the start.
You never know with him, he can play really well or really badly.”

With the win, Whitehouse booked another big match, a third round clash with top-seeded American James Blake.

Blake, who had a first-round bye, finally earned a victory at the tournament after three first-round defeats dating to 2000, ousting Thai Danai Udomchoke 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.

Meanwhile Safin was left still seeking signs of decisive progress in the wake of a knee injury that sidelined him from last summer until February.

He dropped to 12-12 for the season, with his last victory a first-round Wimbledon win against Greg Rusedski.

“This kind of a loss hurts. I don’t really know what to do. You can only look for better times. I’m not even close to my tennis,” said the sad Russian.

Two more Russians advanced as Igor Kunitsyn ousted Germany’s Lars Burgsmuller 7-5, 6-2 and seventh-seededed Dmitry Tursunov advanced when German Benjamin Becker quit with heat exhaustion. Tursunov led 6-3, 5-7, 2-1 when Becker called it a day.

Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan claimed a battling 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (4/7), 6-4 win over Aussie Wayne Arthurs to reach the third round, the eighth seed relieved to go through in a contest which revolved entirely around serve.

The winner, who was runner-up to Andy Roddick here in 2003, fired 16 aces while big-hitting Arthurs rained down a massive 29.

“It could have gone either way,” said Paradorn, who is hoping the move to US hardcourts will help him forget the agony of seven defeats in the first round on clay last followed by a loss in his opening match at Wimbledon.

“This is the start of a new season for me,” he said. “I hope I can do much better than I’ve done so far.”

The contest was so evenly matched that only one break point surfaced in the first two sets. That opportunity in the 11th game of the second set—produced by a double-fault from the Thai—was quickly saved. But Arthurs took it into a tiebreaker with an ace on set point.

“I was hoping for one good return game to break him in the third,” said Paradorn, winner of five career titles, who did get the decisive break to lead 2-1. “I’m glad I didn’t lose serve today, but there were certainly no rallies.”

German fifth seed Tommy Haas advanced in his first match since Wimbledon as he put out Swiss veteran George Bastl 6-3, 6-3.

“Any victories are a bonus,” said Haas, who added, “I’m really using these coming weeks as a build-up for the US Open.”

Haas was joined in the third round by Belgian Xavier Malisse a 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 winner over South Korea’s Hyung-taik Lee.

Denmark’s Kenneth Carlsen scored the day’s lone upset as he beat sixth seed Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia 6-3, 6-2.

Tenth seed Nicolas Mahut, the lone Frenchman remaining in the field, defeated Brazilian Thiago Alves 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. - AFP

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