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Last Updated: Monday, 31 May, 2004, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Nalbandian ends Safin bid
David Nalbandian
Marat Safin could not reproduce his earlier heroics as he fell to a 5-7 4-6 7-6 (7/5) 3-6 French Open defeat to eighth seed David Nalbandian.

Safin, who battled through two five-set epics to reach the fourth round, looked like he might launch another comeback when he took the third set.

But Nalbandian quickly snuffed out the challenge as Safin became increasingly troubled by blisters on his hands.

Nalbandian faces Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten in the quarter-finals.

Kuerten beat Feliciano Lopez in straight sets on Monday to raise his hopes of collecting a fourth straight title.

Safin was hoping to add to the US Open title he won in 2000 but he was ultimately undone by his efforts of the last week.

The blisters on his hands needed treatment from the trainer nine times, and it took a mammoth effort just to avoid a straight sets defeat.

"I couldn't hit any forehands at all in the last four games," said Safin, who added he had counted 11 blisters.

My hands are bleeding
Marat Safin
"I thought of not going on from the first point. It hurt so much. I tried to get in the match but I just had too many rivals out there."

Nalbandian sympathised with his opponent.

"It wasn't easy for him. I think he was also very tired so I tried to keep him moving around the court," he said.

"The interruptions were annoying but I just had to keep my focus."

The first set took 61 minutes to complete with the pair twice exchanging breaks and Nalbandian saving a set point before finally taking it with an ace.

Nalbandian broke a clearly ailing Safin in the ninth game of the second set and took the set in identical fashion to the first with another ace after one hour 48 minutes.

Incredibly, Safin recovered from 2-5 down in the tie-break to take the third set but by this stage the pain was clearly becoming more acute.

A brilliant lob gave Nalbandian a crucial break to lead 2-0 as he sped away to 5-3 and then took the match with a love game which he finished with his eighth ace of the match.

Nalbandian was the fourth Argentine to reach the quarter-final stages, joining Guillermo Coria, Gaston Gaudio and Juan Ignacio Chela.



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