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Safin v Lopez as it happened

Men's singles quarter-final result:

M Safin (Rus) v F LOPEZ (Spa) 31

3-6 7-5 7-6 (7-1) 6-3

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By Ben Dirs at Wimbledon

FOURTH SET

Safin 6-3 Lopez
Seventeenth ace from Lopez but Safin makes it 30-15 with some manful hustling from the back of the court. Another fluffed forehand from Lopez makes it 30-30... and then controversy on Court One: Lopez finds the line with a searching forehand and Safin claims a line official made a noise and has the point replayed. That's a big turning point, especially as Safin outfoxes him on the next point to set up match point. Lopez pulls out a plum that Safin is unable to deal with, but the Russian then unfurls a dipping backhand that Lopez can only frame into the net. And that's that - Lopez goes long with a second serve and Safin is into his first Wimbledon semi-final. Terrible start from Safin but he was really bullying Lopez at the end there - but you have to wonder if he has the consitency to bother Federer unduly.

Safin 5-3 Lopez
Double fault from Marat - signs of nerves? Lopez, however, releases the pressure, ballooning a wild backhand long. Safin, however, finds the bottom of the net with a forehand, before Lopez hooks another forehand long and wide. Safin has really loosened his grip however, and that's a break point after Safin dollies another backhand into the net. And that's not clever from Safin, who watches a Lopez approach bounce on the line - even a challenge cannot save him and that's one break back.

Safin 5-2 Lopez
Signs that Lopez is beginning to lose belief. He does well to salvage two volleys at the net but turns his back on Safin as the Russian prods home an easy winner. That's like a boxer turning his back on an opponent after a barrage of punches, never a good sign. And Safin is really bullying the Spaniard now, throwing him around like a rag doll from the back of the court and sealing the break. Safin to serve for a place in the semi-finals and I never thought I'd be saying that a week ago.

Safin 4-2 Lopez
Safin goes long with a forehand before Lopez finds the net with a rather tired-looking forehand. Safin giving Lopez the runaround from the back of the court and Lopez again produces an unforced error on the forehand side. Safin stretches and pushes a forehand volley long but does find a bomb to hold.

Safin 3-2 Lopez
Lopez steams through the first three points of that game but Safin then shows his guns, somehow hooking a backhand pass down the line. But Lopez finds another beefy serve and seals the hold.

Safin 3-1 Lopez
Ace number 17 from Safin but Lopez responds with a backhand winner that lands on the line. Another ace from Safin followed by a rasping backhand pass that Lopez can only push into the net. Lopez looks like a man ready to topple here... but that's a doozy of a winner, a sliced backhand that leaves Safin rooted to the baseline. But that's sensational hustling from Safin, setting things up with a lacerating backhand before prodding home the winner on the forehand side.

Safin 2-1 Lopez
Lopez is winning 85% of points when his first serve goes in, so he certainly can't be ruled out of this match-up yet, despite that flakey forehand of his. Great return from Safin, blocking it into Lopez's feet before whipping home a forehand winner. And Safin is all over Lopez's next serve, ramming home a backhand winner. And Safin breaks, Lopez plonking a backhand long. This looks like the Russian's to me, King Rog watch out...

Safin 1-1 Lopez
Lopez looks to have been aided by a net cord, but he dabs his forehand into the net. Safin rat-a-tats his fastest serve so far down the middle - 131mph - and that's a comfortable service hold.

Safin 0-1 Lopez
Oh my word, that was quite simply ruddy excellent, Safin scooping a forehand winner down the line on the gallop. Another double-fault from Lopez, but he follows up with his 14th ace. And that's peaches and cream from Lopez, winning the game with a stop-volley.

THIRD SET

Safin 7-6 (7-1) Lopez
Safin holds his serve and Lopez hits back with another ace. But that's a big point from Safin, finishing it off with a soaring backhand smash. Lopez then bunts a backhand long as Safin moves into a 3-1 lead and another booming delivery from the Russian makes it 4-1. Another mini-break from Safin, Lopez finding the net with another forehand, and there's a stack of set points as Lopez serves up another double-fault. That's ropey from Lopez, who cans a backhand into the net, and Safin takes the match by the jaffers. Lopez's lady friend looks agitated - what's the difference in prize money between the last eight and the last four? A couple of hundred of pairs of Jimmy Choos?

Safin 6-6 Lopez
Lopez holding firm at the net as he punches home a backhand volley to move to 30-0. Safin yanks a backhand well wide and Lopez wins the game with a backhand smash that clips the top of the net. A shame for Safin, who scrambled like a madman in that point. We have a breaker.

Safin 6-5 Lopez
Right, players are out on Centre Court, I'll see you all at The Open in a few weeks' time. Lopez gets a helpful net cord before putting away the sliced drop shot, but Safin then unfurls the shot of the match, hooking a forehand past Lopez on the run. Safin saves, Lopez serving to save the set.

Safin 5-5 Lopez
Solid serve and volley from Lopez and he sends down an ace to move into a 30-0 lead. John McEnroe has just unveiled his new suit in the commentary box, he looks like Ted Bovis off of Hi-de-Hi. Lopez saves, he's still putting plenty of gas on those serves.

Safin 5-4 Lopez
Lopez gives Safin the runaround at the net, although he wasn't totally convincing with his overheads, and the Spaniard earns a break point, outlasting Safin in a marathon rally and winning it when Safin flicks a forehand wide. Safin pulls out a big gun to save before Lopez mis-times yet another forehand into the net. The Spaniard reveals his frustration, but wins the next point... but then loses the next, looping a forehand volley about six feet long. However, Lopez steps in on Safin's next delivery and thrashes home a forehand winner, before Safin unleashes ace number 14 to gain the advantage. And that's Safin's game, Lopez only able to parry a backhand into the net.

Safin 4-4 Lopez
Lopez whips down a couple of aces as a roar drifts over from Centre - King Rog has just slain another pretender methinks - and that's an easy hold from the Spaniard.

Safin 4-3 Lopez
Beaut volley that from Safin, just letting his wrist give a little and angling the volley beyond the reach of Lopez. Crisp hitting from both players - 38 strokes in that rally - before Lopez puts in the drop shot. Safin hooks it over but is then unable to deal with the backhand pass from Lopez. Lopez blows a chance, guiding a forehand into the net, and follows up with another unforced error that gives Safin game point. Lopez frames one long and that didn't bode well, he had Safin under pressure on most of those points only to crumble every time. There's Sir Cliff on Centre, looking like a giant parrot in a fuschia shirt.

Safin 3-3 Lopez
It's an absolutely spangling evening out there now and Lopez pulls out three plum serves to race into a 40-0 lead. Safin can only parry his final serve into the net and that's a straightforward hold from the Spaniard.

Safin 3-2 Lopez
Safin crashes down another ace before Lopez makes it 30-0 with a hooked forehand wide. Lopez can only fend a lifting delivery from Safin long before the Russian sends down another ace to seal an easy hold.

Safin 2-2 Lopez
Ace from Lopez and he follows up with a text-book serve and volley. Safin pings back a double-fisted backhand that Lopez can only flip into the net, but Lopez dredges up a couple of bombs to save.

Safin 2-1 Lopez
There's Mike Brearley in the Royal Box, not, alas, wearing his Ashes '81 neckerchief. What are neckerchiefs for? Was it considered impolite to bare your neck in the early 80s? Another solid service hold for Safin - the Russian looking the man most likely at the moment.

Safin 1-1 Lopez
Lopez matches Safin's 10 aces with two sizzlers down the middle, but he follows up with two unforced errors into the net. Safin, however, pushes a forehand long to hand the game to the Spaniard.

Safin 1-0 Lopez
Safin continues to rip it up on his serve, moving to 30-0 with a 139mph howitzer straight down the middle. An easy hold from Safin and the body language isn't great from Lopez, he looks like he's bought himself a new Paul Smith suit and found a cigarette hole in it on its first night out.

SECOND SET

Safin 7-5 Lopez
Wild from Lopez, ballooning a forehand long and wide while backtracking. But that's ace number eight from Lopez at 0-30, a classic left-handed delivery that curls away from Safin's hapless waggle. But that's two set points courtesy of a double-fault... Lopez saves the first with a booming serve, but that's one set all, Lopez ending a lengthy rally with a meek backhand into the net. F-Lo beginning to choke? Lopez has never reached a Grand Slam semi - have we just seen why?

Safin 6-5 Lopez
Real probing slice from Lopez and Safin is unable to deal with it from behind the baseline. Safin plonks another backhand into the net and it's as though someone stuck a pin in him 10 minutes ago and he's slowly deflating. But Marat stuffs a dirty great ace down my cakehole to make it 30-30. Safin chases down a poor drop shot from Lopez and the Spaniard can only find the net with an attempted pass. And the Russian pulls it out of the bag, crashing down a big ace to save.

Safin 5-5 Lopez
Safin sets up the point with a deep sliced backhand and muffs the volley. But that is peche de la peche from the Russian, curling a forehand on the run past the stationary Lopez. Shadows now on Court One as Lopez closes out the game with yet another jackhammer serve.

Safin 5-4 Lopez
Skills! Safin flicks a ball to a ball boy with the outside of the boot and the young scamp didn't have to move. And the Russian has regrouped - an easy service hold.

"With Safin you never know what to expect and that's why it's so interesting watching him." Greg Rusedski on the telly

Safin 4-4 Lopez
I hear Henry Winkler is in the house today. The Fonz - one of the coolest Americans in popular culture and he lived in his mate's parents' garage. Aaaay! Lopez making Safin pay for his lapse in concentration, and with a woman like that to keep in clothes and nibbles, who can blame him - his lady friend is what you'd call 'exotic'. Lopez wins the game to love.

Safin 4-3 Lopez
Gossamer touch from Safin, picking up a half-volley off his toes, but he puts a forehand volley into the net to make it 30-15. That's not too clever from Safin, misjudging the bounce off the baseline and pulling a forehand wide, and the Russian then balloons a backhand long to hand Lopez a break point. Lopez puts in a deep sliced backhand and Safin is only able to plonk his backhand into the net. Lopez breaks back, Safin still dining out on the previous game by the look of things.

Safin 4-2 Lopez
Safin somehow fends a backhand return beyond the reach of Lopez and he moves into a 0-30 lead with a dipping forehand return. Lopez is all over a Safin lob like a cheap suit, but the Spaniard then muffs a far easier overhead, dragging it into the net to give Safin two break points. He saves one, but Lopez produces an unforced error to hand Safin the break. The Russian really steaming now.

Safin 3-2 Lopez
Safin puts away a backhand volley - 11 of 14 serve and volleys won so far by the Russian - and he seals the game with another thumping serve down the middle. Safin coming in behind every first serve now, and he's looking a serious proposition in this second set.

Safin 2-2 Lopez
Safin smothering the net and forcing Lopez to drag a backhand wide, but Lopez follows up with a solid serve and volley. And that's sweet from Lopez, softening the hands and angling a volley beyond the reach of Safin. Unforced error from Lopez, finding the net with a mis-timed forehand.

Safin 2-1 Lopez
Safin serves and volleys, punching home a winner on the forehand side, and he finishes off the game with a limp-wristed volley with his opponent off court. Both serves dominating now...AND WE HAVE BLUE SKIES ABOVE WIMBLEDON! LOVE IT!

Safin 1-1 Lopez
Easy service hold for Lopez, Safin barely got racquet on ball.

Safin 1-0 Lopez
Safin serves up his first double-fault but gets one to rise on Lopez and make it 30-15. Safin hits the service line with another booming delivery before whipping a cross-court forehand past Lopez to hold serve.

FIRST SET

Safin 3-6 Lopez
Lopez yanks a backhand out before Safin wastes a challenge on a serve that was well inside the line from Lopez. Safin's backhand continues to blow hot and cold and he gifts the Spaniard two set points with one ballooned long. Well-constructed point from Safin, eventually punching home a forehand volley, and Lopez puts a big second serve long to muff a second set point. Safin goes long with a forehand before climbing into a Lopez second serve to make it deuce again. But that's crafty from Lopez, playing a forehand behind the advancing Safin, and he takes the set with a booming overhead. However, Safin looks far more with it since the restart and he'll be a more formidable opponent in this second set, I'd wager.

"Since Ian Wright took over from Fash at hosting Gladiators, has the Fash since taking up live text commentary for the Beeb under the name Ben Dirs? Awooga indeed!"
From goony asleep at work via text on 81111

Safin 3-5 Lopez
Safin straight in the zone - three first serves in, three points won. Safin, who Greg Rusedski reckons is taking a little bit of pace off his delivery, takes the game to love.

1633: They've had just over a two hour break and Safin will have been the main beneficiary, he was running Mick Harford close as Wimbledon's angriest man before the clouds swept overhead. The chaps on TV just said one of the paper boys phoned Safin a couple of weeks ago and he said "give me a moment, I'm just watering the garden..." A fiver to anyone who can guess what that was a euphemism for?

1631: Hello again. The news is that the covers are off and the chap with plenty of gravitas who does the weather announcements reckons we could be rain-free for the rest of the evening. Awooga. No-one likes a Wimbers rain break, but it allowed us some lovely chat from Brucey and Tarby. Brucey was looking in particularly good nick for his age - who knew that your hair starts going ginger when you hit 80?

It's raining at Wimbledon

Safin 2-5 Lopez
Lopez getting up a head of steam - 135mph out wide, he moves to 30-15. Safin can't deal with another well-directed serve and moves to 40-15, and that's the hold, Lopez attacking the net and Safin snapping a forehand into the bottom of the net. Safin has a little chat with the umpire at the end of the game and players are off for rain. Somebody fetch Safin a mug of Ovaltine during the break, he needs to calm down a bit.

Safin 2-4 Lopez
Well executed serve and volley from Safin, but that's a sturdy return from Lopez to make it 15-15. Safin then plonks a backhand way long before pulling a ball from his pocket and marmalising it straight into the confectionary stool and out again. Naughty sausage - code violation, ball abuse. Safin pulls himself together, thrashes down an ace and follows up with some neat play at the net to hold.

Safin 1-4 Lopez
Lopez gets a shooter that skids underneath his racquet at the back of the court. Some racquet abuse from Safin after a framed return plops into the net, and some more after he fails to deal with a meaty 137mph delivery from Lopez. Safin challenges on the next Lopez serve and the Spaniard comes up with a double-fault. But Lopez pulls out another peach of a serve that Safin is unable to wrap his strings around and the Spaniard holds again.

Safin 1-3 Lopez
Lopez has a bit of a moan up during the changeover - we think he was moaning about the moisture on the court. Lopez has a touch of the Christopher Lamberts about him, although the lady next to me is rather more taken with Marat. She leaned forward and stared at him during the changeover and let out a Bernard Breslaw-like groan. Epic rally there, which Safin wins, but Lopez makes it 30-30 with a spot of chip and charge. Safin then attacks the net but punches his volley long - another break point - and loses his serve on the next point, a net cord taking the ball wide.

Safin 1-2 Lopez
Court coverers gather as we get some dribble. The left-handed Lopez, a rare serve and volleyer from Spain, is beaten at the net by a whipped top-spin forehand from Safin. Lopez then hustles well to make it 40-30 before launching ace number three to seal the game. The rain goes from a dribble to a guttural flob...

Safin 1-1 Lopez
Gasps from the crowd as Safin puts a forehand long, and that gives us a good idea as to who they're backing. Safin yanks a backhand long... and another, and Lopez has two break points. Safin finds a big second serve to save one break point and then saves the second, Lopez's forehand buckling under the weight of Safin's approach. But another wild unforced error from Safin, again on the backhand, gives Lopez another chance... but Safin pulls out another big delivery to save. Safin looking more under-cooked than one of mater's steak and kidney pies, and he finishes a lengthy rally by whipping a forehand long to hand Lopez another break point. Safin saves again, and then wins the next two points to hold. Nervy opening, but he dodged a bullet there.

Safin 0-1 Lopez
Blink and you'll have missed most of that first service game from Lopez - 40-15. I missed just about all of it, not because I was blinking, but because I was eating a muffin.

1357: Lopez leads Safin 4-1 on head-to-heads, including a straight set win in 2005. But that doesn't really mean anything - Safin is to men's tennis what The Verve are to popular music - long periods of nothing much punctuated by the odd blockbuster performance. It's Lopez to serve first.

1350: Brace yourselves, here's some stats for you: Safin's not been in the best of form this year - it's only the two-time Grand Slam winner's second quarter-final of 2008 and the first time he's won four successive matches since 2006. As for Lopez, he defeated three players ranked outside the top 100 in the first three rounds before his epic match against Marcos Baghdatis in the round of four, an encounter that lasted three hours, 41 minutes. Lopez trailed 4-5 0-40 in the final set but saved three match points and went on to take it 8-6. I wondered how long it would take one of the TV commentators to say "enigmatic Russian"... five seconds...

1345: Marvellous news at Wimbledon - the rain has abated and knocking up is due to start at 1345 BST. Legendary coach Nick Bollettieri is on the radio talking about today's quarter-finals and there's more than a hint of New Yoik Mafiosi about him, he should be called Nicky Five Racquets. And he just said "fanny", which made me giggle.

1340: Dear Andy Murray, deliver us from a summer of barbeques spent chatting about the credit crunch and stabbings... lift the gloom Andy, lift the gloom...



see also
Live - Wimbledon day nine
02 Jul 08 |  Tennis
Wimbledon photos
02 Jul 08 |  Tennis
Men's singles latest
02 Jun 08 |  Live scores


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