Safin Returns with Upset at ATP Dubai

Posted on March 1, 2006

Playing his first match since August 2005 after a knee injury, former No. 1 Marat Safin immediately made an impression Tuesday at the ATP stop in Dubai with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 upset over No. 3 seed and Top 10 Russian countryman Nikolay Davydenko.

"I thought I had no chance when I saw the draw," said Safin, who has since fallen out of the Top 50 on the ATP Rankings. "Nikolay has been playing very well for 18 months, and at the start I couldn't really think I would make a set. I thought I would come out and play a few games -- I didn't expect to win the match. I was still a little bit scared."

Safin says his recovery isn't complete, with some movements still difficult, but the big Russian still displayed the brutal baseline game that garnered him two Grand Slam titles and the No. 1 ranking during his career.

"There were some balls I didn't want to run for, and some movements were hard to make," Safin said. "I still have a little bit of pain but it's not the same pain as it used to be and I can move without any problems. But I think it was harder psychologically than physically, and I am surprised I won. He is a good player to beat. But I still have to climb some mountains."

World No. 1 Roger Federer (d. fellow Swiss Wawrinka) led the six seeds in action, joined in the winner's circle by (2) Rafael Nadal (d. Mathieu from a set down), (7) Radek Stepanek (d. Van Lottum) and (8) Tomas Berdych (d. C.Rochus).

"In the first set I had a lot of chances," Nadal said. "I had two 0-30s, one 15-40 and I played defensively and for that I lost the set. After, in the second and third set, I changed my approach. I played more aggressively, a more intense match. It was an important match for me because I lost the first set and came back with a very good physical performance. I ran very well to difficult balls and that's important because the foot is very good now."

Joining the No. 3 seed Davydenko on the sidelines was No. 6 Dominik Hrbaty, dominated 6-4 in the third set by unseeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny.

Advancing in all-unseeded match-ups were Moroccan Younes El Aynaoui (d. Moodie), and German Bjorn Phau (d. Galimberti from a set down).

El Aynaoui then pulled out of the tournament citing "personal reasons."

Scheduled for Wednesday are Safin vs. O.Rochus, (1) Federer vs. (WC) Al Ghareeb, Phau vs. (4) Agassi, (7) Stepanek vs. (WC) Henman, Schuettler vs. (Q) Klec, an all-Russian in Andreev vs. Youzhny, and an all-Czech in Vik vs. (8) Berdych.