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Thursday, 22 June, 2000, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Safin could be a Wimbledon smash

Marat Safin is getting to grips with grass
Marat Safin had never won a game on grass until this year at Queen's, but many experts think he has an outside chance of winning Wimbledon.

Safin, 20, burst onto the scene two years ago when he beat Andre Agassi and defending champion Gustavo Kuerten at the French Open.

The talented Russian then become better known for his temper, reportedly smashing 48 racquets in 1999.

But at the start of this year he appointed former Russian Davis Cup player Andrei Chesnokov as his coach, and the turnaround was swift.

Safin has become one of the in-form players of men┐s tennis, with tournament wins in Barcelona and Mallorca. He also reached the final in Hamburg.

Alien surface

Englishman Tony Pickard, who coached Stefan Edberg to two Wimbledon titles, has been employed to take him through the grass-court season.

Like many young players, grass is an alien surface to Moscow-born Safin who, since the age of 16, has played most of his tennis on the slow clay courts of Spain.

Now I have got the feeling of grass courts, I think I can win some matches at Wimbledon. Two or three rounds will be a success for me

Marat Safin
His performance at Queen┐s showed he has the potential to do well at Wimbledon, but there were also signs that he has yet to master the surface.

During his match against Gianluca Pozzi, Safin was serving and volleying, the tactics necessary for success on grass, like a veteran.

He came to the net on both first and second serves and even tried to chip and charge when receiving. It gave him a 5-2, 40-0 lead, but then he lost five straight games and eventually the match 7-5 7-6 (7-4).

Safin said:"I felt quite happy serving and volleying but that is not my natural game. So, at important moments in the match I felt more comfortable on the baseline.

Greg Rusedski
Greg Rusedski was one of Safin's victims at Queen's
"But now I have got the feeling of grass courts, and that is more important than any one result. I think I can win some matches at Wimbledon. Two or three rounds will be a success for me."

The draw could have been better for Safin. Seeded 15, he is not expected to be unduly troubled by Spain's Galo Blanco in the first round, but Todd Martin and Andre Agassi await him later on.

On the Queen's defeat, he said: "I was really angry with myself to lose like that to Gianluca Pozzi.

"I couldn┐t believe I lost from that position. It was a disaster. It was like giving him a Christmas present. I was very disappointed with the way I played.

"If I do get past the third round at Wimbledon, you can bet one thing - I will not be giving away any more presents."

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See also:

20 Jun 00 | Wimbledon2000
Men's singles draw
19 Jun 00 | Wimbledon2000
Wimbledon: Men's seeds
22 Jun 00 | Wimbledon2000
Hewitt ready for Wimbledon challenge
21 Jun 00 | Wimbledon2000
Henman and Agassi up against it
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