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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
Classy Safin ends Rusedski hopes
By Caroline Cheese
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Greg Rusedski
Rusedski last went out in the first round in 2000
Russia's Marat Safin ended Greg Rusedski's Wimbledon hopes in the first round, outclassing the British number one 6-4 6-4 6-4.

Safin has never been comfortable on grass but in a match dominated by serve, the former world number one's superior return proved the difference.

He broke once in each set to seal victory, and faced only one break point in the entire match.

Safin goes on to face Fernando Gonzalez or Luis Horna in the second round.

Now 32, Rusedski must now decide whether he has it in him to prepare for another tilt at Wimbledon in 12 months' time.

"I haven't made a decision on that. I'd be silly to make a rash decision at this very moment," he said.

"It's not about injuries, it's about trying to find the motivation. The older you get the harder it gets to find it."

I would have liked to have given a better account of myself

Greg Rusedski

The Briton, whose Wimbledon best is still 1997's run to the quarter-finals, said he was disappointed by his performance against Safin but refused to blame it on the hip injury he suffered before Queen's.

"Marat played well and I never really got a chance on his serve but I was a little bit disappointed with myself," he said.

"I might not have won but I would have liked to have given a better account of myself.

"I didn't have the best preparation. You need matches and I didn't have as many as I would have liked. If I could have had a few matches it would have definitely benefitted me - but no excuses."

Rusedski had not lost in the first round at Wimbledon since going out to Vince Spadea in 2000, but with his preparations this year disrupted by a hip injury and a difficult draw against Safin, the omens were not good.

In a battle of two big servers, breaks were always likely to be at a premium and when Rusedski lost serve at 3-3, there was no way back.

I had to concentrate and take my opportunities on his serve because I knew I wouldn't have many.

Marat Safin

Safin's struggles on grass are notorious, the Russian once claiming he had given up on Wimbledon, but with the first set under his belt, any hope Rusedski had of the Russian self-destructing diminished.

The former world number one stepped on the power on his return once more to grab the decisive break at 4-4 in the second set.

Rusedski gamely saved break points in the first game of the third and even earned his first game point on Safin's serve in the next, but the Russian always looked to have too much.

The pressure told at 3-3 when Rusedski netted an easy forehand on break point and Safin went on to complete a comfortable victory.

"I was maybe a bit lucky with my first break," said Safin.

"After that, I started to feel much more confident. I served well, I was hitting well from the baseline. I felt comfortable."

But Safin denied it had been easy.

"It's very difficult to return his serve. I had to concentrate and take my opportunities on his serve because I knew I wouldn't have many.

"If he had been more aggressive on my serve a couple of times he could have broken me and it would have been a different match."

Gamewatch: Rusedski v Safin
27 Jun 06 |  Tennis
Survival of the British
27 Jun 06 |  Tennis


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