Australian Open, Melbourne January 19-February 1, 2004; 128 Draw (32 seeds); Surface – Hard
It was a tournament that gave Federer tremendous self-confidence, actually building his status of the best player in the world for the years to come. En route to the title, the Swiss defeated quite easily his four most dangerous opponents at the time (not counting Andy Roddick), and he did it in experimental style – putting emphasis on his defensive skills like never before; he triumphed playing almost entirely from the back of the court. Marat Safin, whom Federer outplayed in the final, equaled Harold Solomon’s record for the most sets played in a Grand Slam tournament – 30. Rafael Nadal made his positive Australian Open debut, losing an interesting match to Lleyton Hewitt in round 32. It was obvious that the Mallorcan would be a real threat in the upcoming years, but it was tough to expect at the beginning of 2004 that he would turn into one of the best players in history.
Todd Martin is enhancing his reputation as the marathon man of tennis. He scored a 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 6-3 victory over Anthony Dupuis(each of them served 26 aces) on Monday at the Australian Open. Martin, 33, improved his record in five-set Grand Slam matches to 22-14, including nine wins after being two sets down (Grand Slam record). “It’s a good feeling to win a match, period,” said Martin, who considered retiring last year. “But it’s extra special when you need to rise to the occasion.” Martin, once ranked No. 4 but now No. 66, missed last year’s Australian Open when he took off the opening month for the birth of his son. After making the fourth round of the U.S. Open, he did not play for the rest of 2003. “I really lost my way a bit last year, and I feel a little bit more zeroed in than I did last year,” Martin added. At the U.S. Open he lost to eventual finalist Ferrero in five sets. At about the same time, Martin began working again with coach Jose Higueras. “My attitude and the enjoyment that I had in those couple weeks was so much greater than I had been having,” said Martin, who saved a match point against Dupuis at 4:5* in the 3rd set.Marat Safin is serious about returning to the top echelon of tennis. “I didn’t come here to just make a couple of rounds,” he said Monday after beating Brian Vahaly 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the Australian Open. “I had a lot of time off the court, but I still want to play well, and I have the motivation.” Safin was beset by injuries last year. He was ranked No. 77 after finishing at No. 3 in 2002, when he was an Australian Open runner-up. Safin aims to be No. 1 by the end of 2004. “There is an opportunity for everybody. I’m one of them,” he said. “Why not? I have to give it a try.”Andy Roddick shares the record for the fastest serve with Greg Rusedski: 149 mph. But the top-ranked Roddick has never been tempted to test himself against a speed gun. “If you do that, you can’t serve as hard,” Roddick said after downing Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez 6-2, 7-5, 7-6(4) in the first round. “It’s just got to happen. I mean, if you force it and you try, it’s not going to work for you. A lot of it is timing. It’s not so much how hard you swing at the ball.” Roddick outaced Gonzalez 20-10. Roger Federer reeled off seven consecutive games to close his match against Alex Bogomolov (6-3, 6-4, 6-0) in 1 hour, 29 minutes and extend Bogomolov’s record in Grand Slam tournaments to 0-5. Federer will meet another American qualifier in the second round after Jeff Morrison beat Dennis van Scheppingen 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. Former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt was leading Cecil Mamiit 6-2, 6-4, 0-1 when the American retired after he crashed into the umpire’s chair while chasing a drop shot. Mamiit had his right ankle treated, served in the next game and then withdrew. “I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Hewitt said. “I think I’d worked into a position that was going to be hard for him to get out of anyway.” Hewitt’s last three rivals have all retired during matches. Dutchman Martin Verkerk withdrew from their semifinal in Sydney last week. Former French Open champion Carlos Moya sprained his right ankle in the Sydney final, also knocking him out of the Australian Open. World number five Guillermo Coria crashed out of the Australian Open on Tuesday, going down 7-6(7), 6-2, 6-4 to Cyril Saulnier  of France. Coria led 5:3 in the 1st set and 4:0, 6:5 in the tie-break. The Argentine pulled out of last week’s Auckland Open with an abdominal strain but was later cleared to play in Melbourne. Saulnier, ranked 76th in the world, has never been past the second round of a grand slam in his professional career. Tenth-seeded Mark Philippoussis, nicknamed ‘Scud’ due to the ferocity of his serve, noticed during his tense win, by 7-6(6), 6-2, 7-6(4) over former champion Thomas Johansson, that his sister had disappeared from the players’ box and realized something had happened. He was not informed of the developments until after his first-round match in the Rod Laver Arena had finished. He said: “My cousin David had a heart attack while he was in the toilet. It was fortunate that a doctor happened to be there with him at the time.” The tenth seed saved a set point and hit back from 5:2 down in the tie-break to take the first tie-break before dominating the second behind his serve. Philippoussis then saved two set points in the 3rd set before racing away in the second tie-break to clinch the match. He said: “I am really happy the way I played. I knew I had to play solidly because it was always going to be tough, even though he has been out injured.” [Johansson didn’t play the entire 2003 season] In other men’s matches, third-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero needed only 66 minutes to sweep past fellow Spaniard Albert Montanes 6-0, 6-1, 6-1; eighth-seeded David Nalbandian of Argentina beat Brazilian Ricardo Mello 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. Three other seeded men’s players fell, with Felix Mantilla (23rd) losing to Thierry Ascione of France, Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman (25th) losing to Armenia’s Sargis Sargsian and Feliciano Lopez (28th) defeated by fellow Spaniard Alberto Martin 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(3), 4-6, 2-6. Greg Rusedski lost 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 to 26th-seeded Albert Costa in likely his last match before he faces an ATP doping hearing at Montreal on February 9. Rainer Schuettler became the first major casualty of the Australian Open as he slumped to a five-set defeat to Swedish teenager Robin Soderling. Last year’s surprise finalist collapsed from two sets up as the 19-year-old Soderling completed a 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 victory in 3 hours 12 minutes. There was no sign of what was to come as the German, seeded six, earned a break in each of the first two sets. But with the 3rd set seemingly heading for a tie-break, Schuettler lost concentration and his serve to hand Soderling a lifeline. “I just didn’t take my chances,” Schuettler lamented afterwards. “I could have won in three sets.”He had mini-match point at 5-all in the 3rd set, and *2:1 (40/15) in the 4th set. The favourite regained some composure in the decider, Soderling’s first-ever five-set match. But the Swede broke for a 4:3 lead and then held his serve to put himself within a game of victory. Schuettler bravely saved a match point in the next game but Soderling  served out for the biggest win of his career to date. “It was a tough defeat but he was a shooting star last year, and is a very good player,” added Schuettler, who has yet to win a match this year. “He had nothing to lose.” In similar style won his match Olivier Patience, recovering from two sets and match point down to beat Russia’s Igor Andreev 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-2. Andre Agassi opened his defence of the Australian Open with a straight sets win over Australia’s Todd Larkham. The number four seed blazed into a first set lead, but was forced to work hard for his 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 victory. Gustavo Kuerten survived a five-set examination from Dutchman John Van Lottum. The former world number one, seeded 19, finally put an end to his opponent’s stubborn resistance to claim a 5-7, 6-0, 6-1, 2-6, 8-6 victory. But the Brazilian briefly threatened to let Van Lottum cause an opening-day upset despite suffering severe cramp in the final set. Van Lottum went down clutching his right leg in the 5th & 8th game – the officials helped him back to his chair in the 8th game, but he bounced back despite limping from *2:4 to 5:4* (!), then managed to level at 6:6 (shaky Guga lost to 15 serving for the match) before Kuerten immediately broke back before serving out for the win in 3 hours 15 minutes.
Second round: (AP)
Andre Agassi advanced to the third round of the Australian Open with a 6-0, 6-2, 6-4 win Wednesday over 18-year-old Tomas Berdych (his third main-level tournament). Agassi, 33, an eight-time Grand Slam winner and defending champ of this tourney, closed with an ace in 1 hour, 22 minutes and hasn’t dropped a set in the tournament. He converted six of eight break point chances and didn’t concede one. Agassi took the 1st set in 18 minutes and Berdych did not win a game for 27 minutes, until he held serve for the first time in five attempts to close the gap to 1:2 in the 2nd set. “Today felt really good. I think there was a lot of quality ball striking going on, from both sides,” said Agassi, who has won his last 23 consecutive matches at Melbourne Park. The former No. 1 had never played the young Czech before, making it hard to formulate a game plan to counter his youth and speed. “It’s hard,” he said. “I prefer playing anybody in their late 20s or on,” Agassi said. Berdych had more winners than Agassi, 27-23, and had more aces, 12-7, but was much more inconsistent, committing 35 unforced errors to just 10 for Agassi. Top-ranked Andy Roddick was next on center court against another Czech, Bohdan Ulihrach. A-Rod won convincingly 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.Taylor Dent, seeded 27th, overcame Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 in 3:30. Dent, frustrated after mixing 83 winners with 77 unforced errors, stood behind the baseline and screamed ”Yeah” to punctuate his win when Chela netted a backhand volley on match point. ”I got by with smoke and mirrors somehow,” said Dent, whose serve was broken 10 times. ”I’m looking for solutions, I don’t have them now.” Frenchman Nicolas Escude, winner at Doha earlier this month, had a 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-4 win over Robin Soderling to extend his stretch to seven matches without dropping a set since his return this month from a hip problem that has sidelined him since Wimbledon. In other men’s matches, 16th-seeded Sjeng Schalken beat David Ferrer in four sets, Austria’s Jurgen Melzer beat Spaniard Galo Blanco in three and veteran American Todd Martin – who rallied from two sets down to win in the first round – out-slugged Ivo Karlovic 7-6(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(7). Martin withstood 33 aces from the big-serving Croatian and fired 11 of his own. Karlovic  played seven tie-break sets in a row, not being broken once – in the first round he eliminated Mardy Fish (7/0, 7/5, 7/4), the streak was extended two weeks later onto a Davis Cup rubber that Dr. Ivo lost 6-7, 2-6 to Nicolas Escude.“It’s amazing. His serve is powerful and precise” commented Martin. French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero overcame an arm injury and advanced to the third round of the Australian Open with a 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-5 win Thursday over Italian Filippo Volandri. Ferrero broke back in the 3rd set, and clinched the victory when he broke Volandri in the 12th game, ending the match in 2 hours, 18 minutes. The 23- year-old Spaniard, who reached the quarterfinals last year and was a finalist at the U. S. Open, advances to face Sweden’s Joachim Johansson, a 7-6(5), 6-3, 7-5 winner over Alberto Martin of Spain. Eighth-seeded David Nalbandian, a former Wimbledon finalist, had a 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 win over German qualifier Florian Mayer (Mayer’s first main-level tournament), and Rafael Nadal of Spain defeated Thierry Ascione of France 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 saving two set points in the 3rd set. Australian Todd Reid , who was vomiting at courtside before serving for the match in the 4th set, beat Armenia’s Sargis Sargsian 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-7(6), 6-4 in 3 hours 36 minutes. Immediately after breaking the Armenian to lead 6:5 in the 4th set, the Australian teenager vomited three times on court. He then dropped his serve and lost the ensuing tiebreaker (despite a 4:0 lead) to send the match into a deciding 5th set. Reid served for the match in the 9th game (5:3) of the deciding fifth set but was broken. He clinched it in the next game when Sargsian’s forehand sailed wide. The 19-year-old Reid was a revelation of the first month of 2004 – prior to the Aussie Open, he advanced to the quarterfinals in Adelaide & Sydney defeating such notable players like W.Ferreira, Mantilla & Massu. Yet injuries forced him to take a two-year break from tennis 2006. He returned quite successfully on Futures level, but tormented by injuries called it career at the age of 24. Marat Safin displayed great form in dispatching Jarkko Nieminen 7-6(5), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. The Russian attacked the net 70 times and fired 23 aces. He said: “It’s tough to come back after six months. I need time to feel power in my legs again.” Second match in a row on Vodafone Arena won Gustavo Kuerten, advancing to the third round of Australian Open for the only time in his career. The Brazilian struggled past Ivan Ljubicic 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3 erasing a *2:5 deficit in the 1st set. In the 4th set, Ljubicic improved from *0:4 to 3:4. “It was a great day,” said Kuerten. “It gives me a lot of hopes and beliefs for the next round.” Second consecutive five-setter survived 19-year-old Mario Ancic outlasting 10 years older Alex Corretja 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-5 in 4 hours 13 minutes winning just one point more (174-173). The Croat blew a match point serving at 5:3 in the 5th set, then saved a mini-match point at 5-all. In the final game Corretja led 40/15 but dropped four points in a row, the last two after backhand errors. In other dramatic 5-set encounter between a Spaniard and a serve-and-volley player, Albert Costa overcame Wayne Arthurs 6-7(5), 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 in 4 hours 18 minutes. Arthurs served 39 aces, but couldn’t maintain a break advantage (3:1) in the 5th set. At 5-all he had a mini-match point. Agustin Calleri 0-7 in five-setters after losing to his countryman Guillermo Canas…
Third round: (CNN)
”I changed my hair a million times when I was a kid and hardly got a second look. I like variety. I change style of clothes a lot, change my hair. I like keeping people guessing.” said James Blake(during Aussie Open ’04 he showed off as a pro for the first time without his dreadlocks) needed just 75 minutes to advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open, beating France’s Olivier Patience 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 today. The 23-year-old’s only misstep came when he was serving for the match in the 6th game of the 3rd set. He sent a forehand into the net on one point and ended up wasting two match points before dropping serve. Otherwise, he was on his game, hitting 41 winners to Patience’s 12 and winning 25 of the 30 times he went to the net. He gave Patience only one break-point opportunity. “He was really strong, all around strong. He tried a lot of different things and brought a lot of them off,” said Patience. “He returned serve so well that he makes you tense up.” Wimbledon champion Roger Federer routed teen-age wild-card entry Todd Reid 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 to advance to the fourth round. Federer, seeded second, dropped serve in the 5th game of the 1st set, then reeled off 14 consecutive games to win the first two sets and take a 4:0 lead in the 3rd. The 22-year-old Swiss star won eight of the last nine points to finish off the match in 74 minutes. Reid, 19, struggled through the second round, vomiting during a grueling five-set win over Sargsian. Federer didn’t give him any reprieve, firing 31 winners and earning his third straight-sets win in three rounds to match his best performance in the season-opening Grand Slam event. “I played well, had my difficulties in the start, but it went better in the end,” Federer said. “I’m just happy to be again through to the fourth round. I hope I can go better this time.” While Federer was relentless against Reid, top-ranked Andy Roddick was just as ruthless against Taylor Dent on Friday. Dent did little but chase balls nonstop during a humbling 71 minutes of tennis, losing 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 to Roddick. Dent called the loss “without question, the worst tennis experience of my entire life. I wasn’t tanking out there. I was busting my butt… it was embarrassing, absolutely embarrassing.” Dent found relief nowhere: Roddick punished him on the court; a heckler berated him from the stands. “The lady said, ‘Come on, Taylor, I paid a lot of money for these seats,'” Dent said. “I said, ‘It’s costing me a lot of pride to stay out here.'” Roddick was hardly about to spare his friend and potential U.S. Davis Cup teammate. “The thing is you’re so paranoid that – OK at least the way my mind works – you’re up a break in the third, he breaks back, you’re on serve, it’s a battle again,” Roddick said. Defending champion Andre Agassi was equally overpowering. He routed Sweden’s Thomas Enqvist 6-0, 6-3, 6-3 to extend his winning streak in the Australian Open to 24 matches, levelling his career record against Enqvist at 5-5. The world number three, Juan Carlos Ferrero finished strongly after losing the third set in a tiebreaker to win 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-7(5) 6-4. Ferrero was impressed with Johansson’s improvement since he saw him as a junior three years ago. “I see some good changes in him, the serve and a very good forehand, but maybe he has to improve mistakes on important points,” Ferrero said. Johansson made a welter of unforced errors, 52 to 17 and served up seven double-faults. Ferrero said he was not troubled by forearm and back problems which surfaces in his last match with Volandri. Ferrero started strongly, dropping only one game but 21-year-old big-serving Johansson, who clocked a top speed of 225 kph (140 mph), got more into the match and won the 3rd set tiebreaker. Ferrero broke Johansson’s serve in the 7th game of the 4th set to go on and clinch the match in 2 hours 28 minutes (the Swede was better in aces: 19-14). Argentine Guillermo Canas battered Britain’s Tim Henman 6-7(5), 5-7, 7-6(3), 7-5, 9-7 in a thrilling 4-hour 51-minute clash of 420 points played (Canas won just two more). Henman struck an astonishing 96 clean winners, the equivalent of 25 games, but Canas hit the one that counted, a rocket-like forehand past the advancing Briton on his third match point. Striking the Canas serve early and drifting stealthily into the net, Henman took the attack to the Argentine from the start of the contest. When the Briton was pinned to the baseline, his groundstrokes were full-blooded and for the first two sets Henman kept his nose in front, picking off volleys and stroking the ball away for winners. But Canas, out for most of last year with an injured hand, had won the last three times the pair played and was far from finished. He roared back, reeling off the next two sets with some thunderous hitting which left Henman stunned (the Briton started the 3rd set with a break advantage, but lost his serve immediately for the first time). Cheered on by a packed Margaret Court Arena, both players threw all they had at each other with Henman charging the net and Canas launching groundstrokes from behind the baseline. Canas was serving to stay in the match in the 4th set after dropping three games in a row from a 4:2* lead. The Briton grabbed the advantage early in the final set, stretching into a 4:1* lead. But Canas  broke back with two running passes to even things up. With the pressure beginning to tell, Henman lost 14th game while leading 7:6* (30/0) – Canas produced a brilliant BH lob & second serve ace then, and dropped serve despite a 40/15 lead to trail 7:8 when he hit his ninth double fault of the match. He held off two match points from 15/40 with two forehand volleys, before Canas flourished his forehand passing-shot one final time. Henman said: “It was probably a good match to watch but it is about winning and losing and unfortunately I came up just short. There are probably not a whole load of constructive things that I have got to say.” Rackets have never been Marat Safin‘s friends. He shakes them; he breaks them; and he has the strength and perfectionist tendencies to break quite a few. But at the end he put the instrument of his own torture to good use, taking the last two sets of this high-quality third-round match against Todd Martin to win, 7-5, 1-6, 4-6, 6-0, 7-5. ”He just started letting the ball fly more, and boy, when that happens, it’s tough,” said Martin, who did not get a break point on Safin’s serve in the final two sets, ”I am looking forward to the next eight months of grinding myself down and hopefully grinding some of the other guys down, too.”Sebastien Grosjean snapped Dominik Hrbaty‘s 11-match winning streak with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 victory, coming back from a 1:3 deficit in the 2nd set. Lleyton Hewitt defeated 17-year-old Rafael Nadal 7-6(2), 7-6(5), 6-2, but the Spaniard  looked like a dominant figure in two opening sets with fearsome forehands; he couldn’t take his chances though, especially in the 1st set, in which he led 5:4* (40/15) and had another set point in that game on advantage. The teenager led 2:0 in both tie-breakers.
Fourth round: Paul Alexander
Hicham Arazi, a Moroccan ranked 51st, was nearly perfect in upsetting 10th-seeded Mark Philippoussis 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 on Monday to advance to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Arazi defeated ‘Scud’ for the second time on Centre Court in Melbourne, previously he did it in 1998. The stunning defeat of Philippoussis, the hero of Australia’s Davis Cup victory over Spain last month, put a damper on the fans celebrating their country’s national day. Philippoussis hit a big overhead early in the 1st set that bounced and hit the 30-year-old Arazi on the side of the head, knocking him down. Arazi smiled as he got up and made the crowd laugh when he briefly hid behind a linesman before the next point. But Arazi, who beat 25th-seeded Albert Costa in his last match, blunted Philippoussis’ vaunted power, breaking his serve five times. Philippoussis squandered all 10 of his break-point opportunities, including five while trying to get back into the match while Arazi was serving at 1:2 in the 3rd set. The left-handed Arazi then broke Philippoussis for the last time in the next game, running around his backhand to hit a forehand winner that the Australian didn’t make a move on. While both players had 34 winners, Arazi made just 10 unforced errors to 38 for Philippoussis. ”The guy was pretty much too good today,” Philippoussis said. ”He played a flawless match. I felt like every time he wanted to go for it, he went for it and made it. Nothing much I could do.” Arazi next faces third-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero, the French Open champion, who needed treatment on his injured leg twice in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Andrei Pavel. ”I started to feel better and better during the match, I tried to fight a lot and win – I did it very well,” Ferrero said. ”I was very focused and concentrated on my game and not on my injury.” A freak volley sparked Marat Safin to a pulsating 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3 victory over American James Blake on Sunday, taking the former world number one into the quarter-finals. Safin, who has slipped to 86th in the rankings after an injury-plagued 2003, pulled off an astonishing backhand volley to open a *5:3 lead in the 4th set and end Blake’s hopes of a comeback. Leading by two sets to one, Safin lunged to his left after a crunching Blake forehand, losing his racket as his return volley dipped over his opponent’s head and dropped just inside the baseline. “It was just pure luck,” shrugged Safin, runner-up in Melbourne two years ago. “I don’t know how it happened. It was not like I planned to play it. At the right moment, just pure luck – 100 percent.”Roger Federer reached his first Australian Open quarter-final by ending the challenge of home hero Lleyton Hewitt in four sets. The second seed survived an early Hewitt barrage to rediscover his rhythm and seal a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 victory. “I still wouldn’t have won the match. I ran into a guy who was too good for me tonight.” said the Australian, previously unbeaten this year. He did emerge from his slump in the 4th set to raise the hopes of a partisan home crowd. But Federer broke his dogged opponent to go 3:2 up and held his serve and his nerve to clinch an impressive victory. He also banished the memories of his demoralizing Davis Cup final defeat to Hewitt – from two sets up – on the same Rod Laver Arena court last September. “Big revenge, yeah, this is very big for me and my career,” Federer added after only his third win in 11 meetings with the former world number one. Andre Agassi kept up his devastating form at the Australian Open with a 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-4 win over Paradorn Srichaphan withstanding five set points in the 1st set, in two crucial different games coming from a hole: *4:5 (0/40) & 5:6 (0/30).“I had to be executing everything pretty well,” said Agassi. “Against Paradorn I am much better if I am doing everything well and nothing spectacular. You can’t give him a lot of looks.” Sebastien Grosjean shot down the challenge of rising American star Robby Ginepri in four sets. The players, who both showed consistency in their serving from the start, shared the opening two sets. But after Grosjean sealed the 3rd by breaking in the 10th game, it had a devastating effect on the number 32 seed. The Frenchman broke Ginepri’s first service game in the 4th set and wrapped up the set in 23 minutes to finish 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. Andy Roddick swept into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open after a phenomenal display of power against Sjeng Schalken. The world number one is yet to drop a set in the tournament and that record never looked in danger from the moment he broke at the first attempt. Roddick wrapped up the opening set in 18 minutes before racing to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 victory in just over an hour. Roddick hit 14 aces against Schalken, one to save the only break point against him, and 27 winners. “That’s probably the best I’ve hit the ball from the back of the court in a while” Roddick said.
Quarterfinals: Lawrence Boot
In the game of the Australian Open so far, Marat Safin of Russia beat the No. 1 seed Andy Roddick of USA. It didn’t last as long as the Cold War, but it was just as tense. In front of a packed Melbourne Park crowd, an epic clash swung first one way, then the other, as the two giants slugged it out from the baseline. Safin, who earlier appeared hampered by a groin injury, eventually triumphed 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-7(0), 6-4, but the result was in doubt right up to the end as Roddick squandered two break-back points at 4:5 in the final set (Safin won the last three games of the match). The result means Roddick will lose his place at the top of the world rankings to either Federer or Ferrero. But within minutes of his grueling defeat, Roddick was talking about regaining his No. 1 status – “I have 11 months to get it back before the year ends,” he said. “No one can take away from me the fact that I was there and that I did have it. It’s going to be jumping around a little bit this year. That’s what makes it exciting. Losses actually motivate me a lot more than wins do.” Safin had to wait until the 12th game of the 3rd set to pounce on some rash mistakes by Roddick stealing the set. The match was even tighter in the 4th, but the top seed used his trademark serve to great advantage, storming the tiebreaker and winning 13 consecutive points in total to lead 1:0* (15/0) in the deciding set. A tense 5h set followed the same pattern as neither player gave the other an inch until the 9th game. A lapse in concentration saw Roddick net a backhand at 15/40 before he tapped a forehand volley into the net to gift Safin the crucial break. The Russian dug deep to battle back from 15/40 in the next game before sealing the match with a pair of forehand winners. Earlier, the defending champion Andre Agassi progressed to the last four after his opponent Sebastien Grosjean became the latest player to withdraw injured from the tournament. Agassi took little satisfaction from the manner of his passage, which is technically his 26th consecutive victory at the Australian Open. Agassi moved 6-2, 2-0 ahead before Grosjean threw in the towel. The Frenchman suffered groin strain in the 4th game of the match and withdrew for fear of causing himself further damage. “It’s not a good way for anything to end,” said Agassi. “I would have preferred to finish the match, no question. It’s not that I feel like now I’m not prepared but you just don’t want any match to end that way. He said he had pulled his groin in the fourth game of the first set and that it was getting worse. It’s disappointing and unfortunate that a match would ever have to end that way for the sake and the health of the player, also for the spectators. It’s not a good situation.” Agassi beat Grosjean in straight sets at this point in the tournament last year and appeared well on his way to repeating the feat. The 33-year-old fourth seed hit the ground running to break the Frenchman twice in the opening set and move ahead in the 2nd before Grosjean called time. “I try to work hard from the first point because time on court goes by very quickly,” said Agassi. “It was hard work early but I managed to get the upper hand there. Up until that point in the match I was feeling really good.”Roger Federer beat David Nalbandian in four sets to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open. The Swiss, seeded second, won 7-5, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. Nalbandian came into the match having not dropped a set, but in a tight match it was Federer who won the vital points. He edged the first two sets and, after dropping the 3rd, claimed an early break in the 4th and held on. Federer said the big serves he produced at crucial moments had won him the match. “I took a lot of chances. The aces came at the right time and that was maybe the key to the match,” Federer said. Nalbandian added: “I can’t say I played bad. I think the match was very, very close. I think on the important points, the big points he played better than me. That’s the difference.” Nalbandian had a 5-1 record against Federer before the match, but the Swiss won their last encounter with ease at the Masters Cup in November. And his increased confidence was evident in the decisive moments. With the score at *6:5 and 30-all in the opening set he played a patient point that ended with a move to the net and a sharp volley. Nalbandian then gave up the break with a poor forehand, and that proved to be the story of the match. The Argentine twice broke to go ahead in the 2nd set but from 4:3* down Federer stormed back to take a decisive two-set lead. There were more break-point opportunities for Nalbandian in the 3rd set but it took until the 11th game for him to convert and haul himself back into the match. A real comeback from the eighth seed was not on the cards, however and, after breaking at the first opportunity, Federer served out the 4th set and the match. Spain’s world number three Juan Carlos Ferrero emerged from a three-set dogfight with Moroccan Hicham Arazi to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open on Wednesday. The French Open champion needed two tie-break sets to put away the 51-ranked Arazi 6-1, 7-6(6), 7-6(5) in 2 hours 36 minutes. It is the best performance at an Australian Open for 23-year-old Ferrero, who has battled injuries throughout the tournament to get to the last four. Ferrero is the first Spaniard into the Australian semi-finals since Carlos Moya in 1997. Arazi was backing up after his wonderful straight sets victory over Australian 10th seed Mark Philippoussis in the previous round and looked a little flat early before he rallied late in the second set. “I knew that Hicham always plays good rallies and it’s more normal to beat him 7-6 than 6-1 (in the first set),” said Ferrero, who has now beaten Arazi in four of their six meetings. “I missed some easy volleys at 5:4 and 40/15 but then I won the second set in a tiebreaker and in the third I began to feel a little bit tighter.” Ferrero broke in Arazi’s second service game as he moved the Moroccan around the back of the court and he repeated it in Arazi’s next service game to storm to a *5:1 lead and the 1st set. The third seed maintained his dominance in the 2nd set breaking Arazi in the opening game with the Moroccan howling in frustration over his growing number of errors. Arazi saved a set point trailing 3:5, then the Spaniard was serving for the set in the 9th game and held a double set point but in a dramatic turnaround Arazi fought back as Ferrero lapsed into errors. There was a huge swing to the Moroccan who got to 6:3* and three set points, but Ferrero rubbed them out and then grabbed a set point of his own with Arazi’s forehand just long after an exciting rally and then netting a backhand to put the Spaniard up two sets to love. Ferrero’s serve was coming under attack in the 3rd set and he fought off two break points before holding in the 5th, but Arazi broke through in the world number three’s next service game when a Ferrero backhand was well wide to Arazi to lead 4:3. Ferrero was again under pressure in his next service game with Arazi holding two set points before he held for 4:5. Arazi dropped his next serve amid forehand errors and again lost a tight tie-break.
Semifinals: Stephen Birley
Andre Agassi had made the Australian Open his own with three wins in four years but his 26-match unbeaten sequence here was ended yesterday when Marat Safin took him off at the knees in five stupendous sets. At the beginning of the new millennium Safin had all but destroyed Pete Sampras‘ luminous career with a brutal straight-sets win in the US Open final. Sampras returned two years later to defeat Agassi at Flushing Meadows for his 14th and final Grand Slam victory and the 33-year-old Agassi, holder of eight major titles, may not be done yet. Asked if he would be back in Melbourne next year he said: “I have no plans to do otherwise.” But it felt like the end of an era. Agassi took a little extra time to bow to the four corners of the court and wave farewell: “You never know when it’s your last, so you want to say goodbye properly.” His wife Steffi Graf, sitting next to his long-time trainer, Gil Reyes, gave nothing away. No doubt part of her would love to see him win again, at Roland Garros, Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows or even back here. But it seems unlikely now, and he may join her in retirement later this year [ Agassi played two more year though]. Agassi’s serve has always been an immensely under-rated weapon but it never had the quality or power of Sampras’s delivery. And last night it was the Safin serve – 33 aces in total and none double fault – which gave the Russian the edge. Like Sampras he cruised through some games without expending too much energy and, although Safin, 24 this week, lost the plot in the 4th set, he came back from the brink of self-destruction to win 7-6(6), 7-6(6), 5-7, 1-6, 6-3(Safin saved set points in both tie-breaks!). Apart from that fourth set, when Safin’s Russian core imploded and he railed against the perceived injustice of dropping a two-sets lead, he played, as he had in his five-set quarter-final victory over Roddick, with astonishing self-control and unbending self-belief. Safin has smashed more rackets than most but now, apart from one mini-tirade at the umpire and the clattering of one ball into the net after a point was lost, he was admirably restrained. To be sure he mumbled and grumbled between points when Agassi was in the ascendancy, yet it was possible to believe his conversation with himself was constructive rather than a long rant about the world and its iniquities. When the 5th set began he had calmed himself and was seeing matters with cold clarity rather than through a red mist. And it was Agassi who faltered. Five times previously in Grand Slam events, most famously against Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 French Open final, the American had come back to win after losing the first two sets. It seemed he might do it again until, in the 4th game of the final set, he missed a bread-and-butter forehand across court to go 3:1 down. Tiredness seeped into his limbs and, when Safin served for the match at 5:3, Agassi’s resistance had all but vanished. A backhand down the line – so often Agassi’s specialty – finished him off. “I just could not feel any better. This was the best match of my whole life,” said Safin, the 2002 runner-up here – the year Agassi missed – who began the fortnight ranked world No. 86, having lost most of last year through injury. He has two days to prepare for the final – “time to have a few beers to loosen up the muscles.” Whatever happens on Sunday, men’s tennis, as vibrant as it has been for some time, is much the richer for having Safin back and contesting major honours. For Safin it was fourth more-than-3-hour match in a row vs. Americans (Martin 3:25, Blake 3:08, Roddick 3:23 & Agassi 3:42)…Roger Federer booked his place in the final of the Australian Open with a flawless three-set victory over Juan Carlos Ferrero. The comfortable 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 (89 minutes) victory also saw the Swiss player take over the world number one spot from American Andy Roddick. The Wimbledon champion never looked back after seizing his first break in the 10th game of the opening set. “I love it,” said Federer, after climbing to the top of the rankings for the first time in his career. “I missed it in Montreal against Roddick and to take it this time, well I was really nervous. Now I’m looking forward to playing Safin. He is one of my favourites to play against, not just because of our results, but he is a great guy. I am confident. Have you ever seen a number one in the world who is not that confident?” Federer certainly stamped his authority on his semi-final encounter with Ferrero, who was the most consistent Grand Slam player of last year after reaching two finals. Ferrero’s own resilience on his service game came to an abrupt end in the 10th game. A combination of ruthless stroke-play by Federer and unforced errors by Ferrero handed the Swiss the break and the first set after ten games. From there, the match was effectively over as a contest as the Wimbledon champion raced to a 3:0* lead in the 2nd set. Federer easily broke Ferrero again to wrap up the set, leaving the Spaniard floundering with his pinpoint forehands and determination to chase down every ball. Ferrero, who seemed to be struggling with a groin injury, tried to change the rhythm of the match by coming forward to the net. His fragile confidence was finally shattered in the 7th game when Federer broke him for a fourth time in total, tearing a return back onto the Spaniard’s toes. Serving comfortably he moved to 5:3, one game from victory and he made no mistake, forcing Ferrero to return a forehand long after yet another heavy serve.
Final: (USA Today)
Roger Federer solidified his No. 1 ranking and won his second Grand Slam title with a 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-2 rout of unseeded Marat Safin in Sunday’s Australian Open final. “What a great start to the year for me, to win the Australian Open and become No. 1 in the world,” the 22-year-old Swiss star said. “To fulfill my dreams, it really means very much to me.” Federer won the 2-hour, 15-minute match when Safin – who tied a Grand Slam record by playing 30 sets – hit a forehand long on championship point. “Safin had to battle. He’s been longer on the court than me, way longer,” Federer said. “It’s really nice to see him back. He’s a great guy and a great player.” Federer, who clinched the top spot in the rankings with a semifinal victory over Juan Carlos Ferrero, hasn’t lost a set in his two Grand Slam final appearances. He beat Mark Philippoussis in straight sets at Wimbledon last year. Safin, in the first stage of a comeback from wrist and other injuries that limited him to 13 tournaments last year, beat top-seeded Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals and ended Andre Agassi‘s 26-match Australian Open winning streak in the semifinals. “I would like to say congratulations Roger, first of all for becoming No. 1 player and beating me today,” Safin said. “It was really impressive tennis during these two weeks and well done. I’m actually very glad to be in finals again. I’m really glad to play my best tennis after the I had injuries last year… I’m really sorry, I just ran out of gas today.” Federer, 4-1 against Safin, had 40 winners and 28 unforced errors against Safin’s 19 winners and 41 unforced errors. Safin twice slammed his racket into the court to vent his growing frustration. “I was out of energy, my legs were just too tired,” Safin said. “I was a little too tired to keep up with him. I felt that I was missing just a little bit. Against Roger, you have to do better than that. I’m not playing a yo-yo. He knows how to play tennis.” The Russian had 123 aces in six previous matches, including 31 against Agassi without a double-fault. But he had just three aces against Federer and five double-faults. With the roof open at Rod Laver Arena, the match was played under mostly overcast conditions and no wind. Part of Safin’s plan was to attack Federer’s second serve, and that helped him break in the 3rd game of the opening set. The pair traded breaks twice and got back on serve to take the 1st set into a tiebreaker, which Federer dominated. Loud, booming music could be heard throughout the match from a rock concert at a nearby park. Early in the 2nd set, chair umpire Mike Morrissey of Britain told both players that it would likely continue for the duration of the match. At 2:2 and on serve in the 2nd set, Safin was broken when he hit two backhands into the net. For the first time in the match he showed some emotion, yelling into a towel and then swinging wildly as if he was going to smash his racket to the court. Two games later, an increasingly frustrated Safin succeeded in smashing his racket when he double-faulted to set up break point. Morrissey gave Safin a code violation for racket abuse, and Federer’s long forehand put the game back to deuce. Safin held with his second ace of the match. Federer held to go up 5:3. With Safin serving to stay in the set, the Russian again double-faulted, yelling loudly to himself as he fell behind 15/30. Safin eventually fought off two set points in the game, and later in the same game lined up on the ad side of the court instead of the deuce to serve. Both players smiled at the mistake. Safin saved another set point in the 9th game before holding on a service winner. Federer then held on his own serve to take the 40-minute second set. In the 3rd set, Federer broke twice (3rd & 5th game), and finished the tournament with three service winners and forced Safin to a forehand error on first match point. The Swiss celebrated his 12th title on the knees with arms stretching up towards the sky.“Don’t give me a hard time, I’m trying my best,” Safin told the crowd as they tried to raise him at the beginning of the third set. Two of his rackets had already bitten the dust but by now his exhaustion was terminal. Safin, who missed most of last year through injury, was understandably disappointed while also being thoroughly pleased to be back in the big time, where he belongs. “Roger is a great player, the most complete on the tour. And he was fresh; I wasn’t.” Stats of the final
Australian Open, Melbourne January 17-30, 2005; 128 Draw (32 seeds); Surface – Hard
Marat Safin managed to win the Australian Open title on a third attempt in the final, demonstrating the best tennis of his life. He was 25 at the time, but never won another title afterwards… Joachim Johansson produced an Australian Open record in aces (51), and what’s astonishing – he did it in a 4-setter dropping his serve thrice! The future multiple Australian Open champion, Novak Djokovic made his debut on a big arena. Lleyton Hewitt enjoyed magnificent two weeks in Melbourne the only time in his long career, but experienced something similar what the runner-up a year before – the Australian had too tough road to the final eliminating six potential Top 20’ers, and after a terrific start in the final he simply ran out of gas against Safin.
Something about the Australian Open brings out the best in Marat Safin. The mercurial Russian began last year’s Open ranked just 86th after an injury-plagued 2003, then started his comeback to his current No. 4 spot by reaching the final in Melbourne for the second time in three years. Safin then opened 2005 with an 0-6 record in singles and mixed doubles at the Hopman Cup. He suddenly turned things around again just in time for the start of the year’s first Grand Slam, schooling 17-year-old Serbian qualifier  Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 Monday night in just 74 minutes. “I find myself comfortable here,” Safin said. “The court suits me. I love the stadium. It’s a great city. Basically, you have a good time.” There was also a very real purpose to the quick drubbing. Safin played 27 sets in six matches spanning more than 18 grueling hours last year before the final. He had little energy left for Federer and lost the championship match in straight sets. “I try to spend less time on the court,” Safin said. “It’s better to be fresh.” He stated about Djokovic: “The guy tried everything. I just told him he’s going to be a great player,” also added referring to his marathon accomplishment a year before: “I try to spend less time on the court. It’s better to be fresh.” Top-ranked Roger Federer quickly dispelled any thoughts that the new year might bring a letdown by the man who dominated men’s tennis last year, blasting 54 winners to win his first-round match at the Australian Open on Monday over France’s Fabrice Santoro 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. Andre Agassi, always considered a threat despite his No. 8 seeding, worked his way through stiffness from a hip injury that had raised questions whether he would even be able to begin pursuit of his fifth title at the season-opening Grand Slam. He started slow before loosening up the hip and tightening up his game to beat German qualifier Dieter Kindlmann 6-4, 6-3, 6-0. But it didn’t take long for the upset bug to bite as No. 5-ranked Carlos Moya lost to fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Garcia-Lopez, ranked 128th at the end of 2004, broke the former French Open champion’s service in the 8th game of the 4th set and served out at love in the next, making the most of a booming forehand and 43 winners. Garcia-Lopez was delighted with the victory in only his third ever Grand Slam match. “I think this was the most important win of my life as Carlos is one of the best players in the world,” he said. “This has given me a lot of confidence. Now I feel I can beat all these players.” Moya said: “I was playing well before I came here. It was the perfect preparation but something was wrong today.” Federer won all 12 points in the first three games against Santoro and lost just three points as he raced to a 5:0 lead. “I think the start was important for me,” said Federer, who extended his winning streak to 22 matches. “That set the tone for the rest of the match. I never really gave him a chance.”Andy Roddick is also a man with a make-over. He has a new coach, Dean Goldfine; he is now between girlfriends. And, the 22-year-old American is also aiming to make strategic changes to his game which has often seemed one-dimensional – a decision on which he acted positively at Melbourne Park on Tuesday as he raced past Irakli Labadze of Georgia 7-5, 6-2, 6-1. The man Roddick will meet in the second round – the British left-hander Greg Rusedski – might have been excused if he had chosen to walk away from the game last year. Just before the 2004 Australian Open, Rusedski was embroiled in a drug scandal after having tested positive for nandrolone. But he fought his way through the controversy and was finally exonerated. “I just have to put it behind me and forget about it, just get on with my tennis and enjoy it,” said Rusedski, after beating Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden 2-6, 6-4, 6-0, 7-6(7). In a tight 4th set Bjorkman broke first and had two set points in the tie-break. It was their 12th and last match, with Bjorkman edging 7-5, but Rusedski 3-0 at Slams – when they met at US Open 2001, Rusedski also won 4th set tie-break saving set point. In a battle of Davids: Nalbandian defeated Ferrer 7-6(1), 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in 3 hours 45 minutes, avenging three previous defeats. Ferrer played his first five-setter. In other match, world junior champion Gael Monfils made use of his wild card with a magnificent 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(6) win over American Robby Ginepri. Third seed Lleyton Hewitt cruised into the second round thanks to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 victory over former finalist Arnaud Clement. The Australian broke once in each of the opening two sets before breaking three times in the 3rd to seal the win in under two hours.
Second round: (BBC)
Roger Federer was forced to produce some of his best tennis to beat Takao Suzuki at the Australian Open. The world number one beat the Japanese qualifier 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, but it was far from smooth sailing for Federer, who was almost matched shot-for-shot. Suzuki broke Federer in the 5th game of the 1st set, before the Swiss star broke back and again in the 8th. Federer worked hard to win the next two sets. Andre Agassi showed no mercy as he crushed Rainer Schuettler 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 in a repeat of the 2003 final in Melbourne. The 34-year-old had far too much for his German opponent. Much to the displeasure of the crowd, Schuettler appeared to give up hope altogether as Agassi won 14 of the last 16 games, including the last nine. Agassi goes on to face fellow American Taylor Dent, who destroyed Czech Michal Tabara 6-4, 6-1, 6-4. “To be able to have the time to get it (injury) better up to this point is a great sign that it will be 100 percent, because I’ve got another day now,” Agassi said. “My movement was plenty good enough for me to think about my game and not think about that.” Fourth seed Marat Safin also wasted little time in booking his third-round place. Last year’s beaten finalist crushed Czech Bohdan Ulihrach 6-4, 6-1, 6-3. The Russian dropped only three games in the first round and continued where he left off on Monday by blasting 37 winners past Ulihrach. Safin faces a stern test of his title credentials in the next round where he faces dangerous Croat Mario Ancic, who easily saw off Germany’s Bjorn Phau – his compatriot Tommy Haas saw a two-set lead slip away as he went out to Karol Beck. The 16th seed was in control after taking a two-sets-to-love lead. But after losing the 3rd set, Haas appeared to struggle in the 95 degrees heat and Beck fought back to secure a 5-7, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-3 victory. Haas led 5:4* in the crucial 4th set tie-break. “Yeah, it was pretty hot, but I saw he got some problems in (the) beginning (of the) third set,” Beck said. “He start making some more mistakes, not moving very well, so I was trying to catch the chance.”Ivan Ljubicic, the 22nd seed, also went out in the second round, beaten 7-6(1), 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-2 by Marcos Baghdatis  of Cyprus. Ljubicic was able to break the Cypriot just once in an almost 3-hour match. French Open champion Gaston Gaudio avoided an upset against unseeded American Mardy Fish. The Argentine came through 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-6(4). Gaudio, who beat compatriot Coria in the Roland Garros final last year, was in early trouble against the combative Fish when he dropped the opening set, but clawed back with two service breaks in the 2nd set to level the match. The Argentine swapped service breaks with Fish before a crucial second break in the 11th game which earned the American a warning from the chair umpire for hitting a ball angrily high into the crowd. Gaudio served out a two sets to one lead and then jumped to *4:1 before the American hit back retrieving the two breaks to level get 5:4 in front. The set went to a tie-breaker and two crucial errors gave Gaudio the match. “I’m not disappointed to lose to someone like that,” Fish said. “I don’t think I took a step back.” Former world junior number one Gael Monfils was easily beaten by Belgium’s Olivier Rochus 6-1, 6-3, 6-3. “I get a lot of confidence in the last two weeks. I think those matches helped me for the match like today,” Rochus said. And Guillermo Garcia-Lopez‘s run came to an abrupt end in the second round. Lopez stunned fifth seed Moya in his previous match but was easily beaten 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 by Kevin Kim of the United States on Wednesday. Sebastian Grosjean became the second highest seed to exit the Australian Open after a shock defeat to fellow Frenchman Jean-Rene Lisnard. Grosjean, the 14th seed, looked to be cruising to victory when he took the first two sets against Lisnard, who had to win three matches in qualifying to get into the main draw. But the world number 142 had other ideas and stormed back to take the next three sets (1-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3) and move into the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career – Lisnard came back from a two-sets-to-love deficit also in the first round. Olympic champion Nicolas Massu was earlier forced to retire hurt during his second round match. Massu lost the first set 6-0 and was 2:0 down in the second to Germany’s Phillip Kohlschreiber when he withdrew with an ankle injury. The same problem caused the Chilean to pull out of the Kooyong exhibition event in Melbourne last week. Rafael Nadal needed five sets to get the better of Mikhail Youzhny, the match lasting 3 hours and 38 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. Youzhny looked in control when he led by two sets to one and *2:0 in the 4th, but after losing his serve the Russian received lengthy treatment on his left thigh. Nadal sensed his chance and saved a match point at *4:5 – the Russian he fluffed his lines by overplaying a volley from mid-court.. The 18-year-old Spaniard then taking the decider to seal a 6-1, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory – his first from a match point down. In the final set Youzhny came back from *0:4 to 3:4, but Nadal took the following two games and said:“This year, I am serving a little bit better, but all my life, I have all matches with nothing ace.”Andy Roddick produced a stunning performance to overcome a gritty display from Greg Rusedski. After a delayed start due to previous long matches on the same court, Roddick looked intent on taking care of business as soon as possible. Rusedski was subsequently blown off court by Roddick in the first set, winning just 11 points as the second seed produced a superb array of shots to storm through the set in only 18 minutes. But Rusedski refused to give up without a fight and took the 2nd set after breaking Roddick’s serve in the 8th game, the American serving his first two double faults of the match. The British No. 2 had done superbly to get back on level terms and only two pieces of bad luck effectively cost him the 3rd set. A net cord in the 6th game put Rusedski 15/40 down on his own serve and, although the left-hander got back to ‘deuce’, he could do nothing when another net cord gave Roddick another opportunity which he gratefully accepted. A second break to seal the set was largely immaterial, although it did give Roddick the advantage of serving first in the 4th set. Roddick broke once in that set, and duly served out for a 6-0, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win to secure a third round clash with Melzer. Lleyton Hewitt remained on course to win his home Grand Slam after battling back to beat James Blake 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-0, 6-3. In an enthralling match, Blake took the opening set and had a point (6:5) to take a two-set lead in the tie-break.Blake was also serving to win the set in the 12th game, and jumped off to a 3:1 lead in the tie-break. The American couldn’t mentally regroup after losing the tight 63-minute set. “He’s a dangerous player; he always is,” Hewitt said. “He did not have a lot to lose when he went out there.” Blake , who didn’t play competitive tennis the second half of the 2004 – due to fractured vertebrae in his neck & Zoster – a condition affecting hearing and visionary senses – said: “From sitting on my couch for six months and watching people do that and have that emotion go through them, it’s an amazing feeling to go back to it.”
Third round: John Pye
In a first Australian Open match that two players served at least 30 aces, Joachim Johansson (38 aces – the last one on match point) put in a magnificent battling display to see off Feliciano Lopez (34 aces) in five epic sets at the Australian Open. The Swede, seeded 11th, looked on his way out as he struggled with a leg injury in the final set. Lopez was two points from victory at one stage but Johansson kept firing down huge serves to keep the 24th seeded Spaniard at bay. And it was Lopez who cracked, Johansson winning 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 7-6(2), 13-11. With Johansson needing treatment on his leg in the 5th set, the Swede simply went for outright winners wherever possible. Shortly after Aussie Open, Pim-Pim once again beat F.Lopez being two points away from defeat – Marseille. Andy Roddick served 22 aces and hit 41 winners – including a passing shot played between his legs – and beat Austria’s Jurgen Melzer 6-2, 6-2, 7-5 today to advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open. The second-ranked Roddick had the crowd buzzing after starting his first service game with a pair of aces. He unleashed serves at up to 139 mph. “I thought I moved really well. I got up two sets, the third one got a little tight, but I was able to get through,” said Roddick, who noted his serve is well short of his world record 155 mph. “I’m holding serve though, that’s the most important thing.” Fourth-seeded Marat Safin, the runner-up last year, twisted his right ankle and fell on his face in the 4th set against 28th-seeded Mario Ancic. He got up, put more tape on his ankle and beat Ancic, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Defending champion Roger Federer led Jarkko Nieminen, 6-3, 5-2, when the Finnish player retired with a torn abdominal muscle, giving the top-ranked Swiss his career-best 24th consecutive victory. French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, seeded 10th, needed treatment on both thighs before losing a 4-hour, 21-minute marathon to No. 20 Dominik Hrbaty 6-7(5), 7-6(8), 7-6(3), 1-6, 3-6. Their second more than 4-hour encounter won by Hrbaty, who hit 70 winners, while Gaudio had 48. Hrbaty botched six set points in the 2nd set tie-breaker which would have put him in a commanding position at two sets to love, allowing Gaudio to claw his way back and hit the front by taking the 3rd set tie-breaker. Gaudio sought treatment court-side several times during the 4th set with what appeared to be cramp in his thighs and for a time looked as though he would not be able to continue in the match as he refused to run during rallies. But further treatment appeared to free him and he moved more easily around the court trying to save the match. The final set fluctuated with Gaudio losing his service three times and Hrabty twice, before the Slovakian got the decisive break in the 8th game when the Argentine netted a forehand. Hrbaty worked his way to match point and raised his arms in triumph when Gaudio over-hit a forehand. Tim Henman smashed a ball into the stands in anger in the 4th game of the 3rd set Saturday, his cleanest hit in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 third-round loss to Nicolay Davydenko at the Australian Open. The seventh-seeded Henman was a semifinalist at the French and U.S. Opens last year and a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon. But he seemed distracted Saturday, making 32 unforced errors and 5 double-faults. He won less than half his 69 net approaches. Davydenko, a Russian seeded 26th, hit 31 clean winners, mostly on his forehand, and broke Henman’s serve in the opening games of the first and third sets. He had never reached the second week of a Grand Slam tournament in 15 previous attempts. Davydenko next faces 12th-seeded Guillermo Canas, a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 winner over Radek Stepanek. French Open finalist Guillermo Coria beat former top-ranked Juan Carlos Ferrero, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1. “I felt excellent,” Coria said. “I made the most of the moments where I could break his service and I feel really confident for the next match.”Marcos Baghdatis playing his just fourth main-level tournament, eliminated second seeded player in a row as he outplay Tommy Robredo 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-1, saving three set points in the 1st set. Andre Agassi, a four-time Australian Open winner, was down 4:1* in the first set against serve-and- volleyer Taylor Dent before coming back for a 7-5, 7-6(3), 6-1 victory Friday. Dent made 39 unforced errors, and his 51 percent of winning net approaches dropped to about one-third in the 3rd set. Agassi committed a miserly six – none in the last set – and pounded Dent with an arsenal of ground-strokes. The 34-year-old Agassi admired Dent’s gallant charges. “Listen, I was settling in for whatever it was going to take,” Agassi said. “The guy’s really talented, can make a lot of shots that you just don’t expect him to be able to pull off. If you’re not on your game, he’s one of the worst guys to play.”Thomas Johansson, the 2002 Australian Open champion, rallied for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-2 win against American Kevin Kim – ToJo’s third 5-set win in a row. Lleyton Hewitt claimed a four-set win over Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela in an ill-tempered clash. Tension rose in the last set when Chela became irritated by Hewitt’s trademark shouts “C’mon!”, and he appeared to spit towards the Australian at a change of ends after being broken. Chela also seemed to drive a ball straight at Hewitt, but he eventually prevailed 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to set up a fourth-round clash with Nadal. Hewitt and Chela shook hands at the end of their match and the Australian said he had accepted his opponent’s apology. “He spat in my direction. He apologized to me at the net after the match and I accepted his apology,” said Hewitt. “It’s unfortunate because we were having a good dogfight. It’s sad something like that happens but at the end of the day he apologised and I said just ‘Forget about it mate’.” Chela admitted spitting, but denied it was in Hewitt’s direction. “Lleyton thought it was at him and I apologized for that at the end of the match. But I was not spitting at Lleyton,” Chela said through an interpreter. Anyway Chela was fined 1,000$ for that spitting in the direction of Hewitt during their fractious third-round match.
Fourth round: Mark Hodgkinson
Maybe Olivier Rochus should pick on someone his own size. Rochus is, at 5’5, the smallest man in the Australian Open and can barely look any of the ball boys squarely in the eye, but yesterday he had his opponent, some 11 inches taller (30 cm), totally exasperated and mangling racket frames on the court like the fiery-eyed Marat Safin of old. Safin has a powerful serve and ferocious ground-strokes, a game that on its day is good enough to destroy anyone in the draw apart from Federer, but he struggled against the greater invention and touch of Rochus. For a set or three, it appeared that Safin, last year’s finalist, was in serious trouble against a little fellow who admits that his childhood ambition was “to be tall”. The Rod Laver Arena delighted in this little-and-large fourth-round match, mostly because it killed the thesis that Peter Lundgren, the Russian’s coach, has ushered in a period of self-control, that Safin now refrains from eating the handle of his rackets or cracking the frame. He blew up at the start of the 3rd set, hitting the frame with such force that it splintered at both ends. Up in the players’ box, Lundgren smiled as his player was warned. The Swede, Federer’s old coach, had anticipated a few uncomfortable moments. This was the third occasion at a Grand Slam that Safin had encountered problems against Rochus, losing to him on the Wimbledon Centre Court in 2002, and requiring five sets to advance in the French Open the same year. Rochus knows that he will never have the biggest of serves – he managed one ace to Safin’s 29 – but he scurries around the court with incredible energy, and makes his opponent play one more ball than he would have wanted. But he walked tall at the end, pleased with the account he had given of himself in Safin’s 4-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(5), 7-6(2) victory. He next faces Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty, who beat the other Swedish Johannson in the draw – 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson 7-5, 6-3, 6-1. Roger Federer extended his winning streak to 25 matches by beating Marcos Baghdatis, a spirited Cypriot qualifier, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(4) to reach his quarter-final for the second year running. It was the first time in the tournament that Federer, the defending champion, had been made to play a tie-break. Baghdatis broke Federer’s serve once and stunned Federer with some whipping cross-court forehands in the 3rd set. Federer, who beat Baghdatis at the last U.S. Open in the 19-year-old Cypriot’s only other appearance at a major, fell behind 0:3 in the tiebreaker before reeling off five straight points. ”I enjoyed the battle for sure,” said Federer. ”After I’ve won, it’s always good to battle it out and win it.”Andre Agassi overcame a record number of aces from Joachim Johannson on Sunday and set up an Australian Open quarterfinal against defending champion and top-ranked Federer. Agassi, an eight-time Grand Slam winner and four-time champion in Australia, produced one of his great performances to defeat the 6’6 Pim-Pim, who slammed 51 aces in their 2-hour, 38-minute duel. One of the best returners of serve, the 34-year-old Agassi endured Johansson’s serves, breaking the Swede three times to win 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 6-4. Agassi dropped his own serve twice, at the start of the 1st (led 3:0*) and 4th sets (the Swede led *2:0, deuce), and made only 13 unforced errors in the match. The crucial moment of the match came in the 2nd set: Johansson was leading 4:3* when Agassi fought off a mini-set point with a forehand passing-shot. The 11th-seeded Johansson was pushing the limits on almost every shot. He mixed 66 unforced errors with a remarkable 96 winners, including his aces and 24 service winners. He surpassed Richard Krajicek‘s mark of 49 aces in a match at the 1999 U.S. Open. Krajicek also set his record in a loss, to Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Johansson’s final three aces came in his last service game. ”It was a tough day.Joachim was hitting the ball so big,” Agassi said. ‘‘What can you do but sort of react? ‘I was anxious the whole time. I had to stay focused and disciplined, give myself a look and hope I can convert on the few chances I do get.” American second seed Andy Roddick served his way into a third straight Australian Open tennis quarterfinal with a straight-sets 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-1 victory over German Philipp Kohlschreiber on Monday. The second-ranked Roddick lost just three points on his serve in the 1st set but was more erratic in the 2nd. After taking the tiebreaker on consecutive errors by the 102nd-ranked Kohlschreiber, Roddick dominated the 3rd set, breaking the German twice. Lleyton Hewitt overcame a hip injury to beat Spain’s Rafael Nadal 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 in 3 hours 53 minutes and keep his dream of winning the Australian Open alive (Hewitt’s second win over Nadal on Centre Court in Melbourne within two years). The third seed looked to be on the brink of defeat when 18-year-old Nadal clinched the 3rd set with ease after Hewitt had treatment for the problem. But the Australian raised his game in the 4th and took it on a tie-break (no breaks of serve in that set, Hewitt was always ahead). Roared on by the crowd, Hewitt raced through the decider to reach the last eight for the first time in his career. Losing the fourth set visibly deflated Hewitt’s unseeded opponent and it was then Nadal’s turn to receive treatment on his left thigh. But it was merely delaying the inevitable as Hewitt raced into a *3:0 lead in the decider with two breaks of serve. The home hero then went on to wrap the match to set up a quarter-final match with David Nalbandian, who powered past fellow Argentinian Guillermo Coria 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, 6-0. But, despite his dominance in the latter stages, Hewitt admitted he had been given a tough test by the Spanish teenager – a player he rates highly. “I was hurting a little bit but told myself to hang in there,” said the 23-year-old. “I strained my hip flexor in Sydney last week but I will be fine. Nadal’s got a great attitude for tennis – he is hungry and good for the game. He’s gonna be around for a while.” Nadal set his sights on a place in the world’s top 20 after pushing Hewitt to the limit. “I am happy because I played a good match and I had a lot of chances for a win,” he said (Nadal led 2:0 in the opening set and had two mini-set points at 4-all, he was four points away from victory in the tie-break).“I am happy because he is number three in the world and I played the same as him. If I play at this level, I can do important things this year.” Hewitt won just two points more (154-152). Nalbandian, who lost to Hewitt in the 2002 Wimbledon final, got off to rocky start against Coria. Sixth seed Coria had treatment on a groin injury early on, but it did not seem to affect his game as he came from a break down to win the 1st set. But as the match progressed, ninth seed Nalbandian found his range and pace and eventually his greater weight of shot told.
Quarterfinals: (USA Today)
In a match-up worthy of a final, defending champion Roger Federer was graceful and at his relentless best in beating four-time winner Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday to advance to the semifinals of the Australian Open. The top-ranked Federer extended his winning streak to 26 matches with a dazzling array of stinging winners from the baseline, crisp volleys and 22 aces that often left the quick Agassi flat-footed and the sellout crowd applauding. “He just outplayed me,” Agassi said. “He was too good. I would suggest to his next opponent that he doesn’t look to me for advice.” At night, Federer broke for a 4:2 lead in the 1st set when Agassi, trying to put a little extra on a second serve, double-faulted. Then, as he did again and again while winning three Grand Slam titles last year, Federer found an extra gear when he needed it. The Swiss star saved four break points – two with aces – while serving for the set in a game that went to deuce six times. A third ace gave Federer his third set point, and he turned a good service return from Agassi into a backhand winner down the line. “I have no secrets,” a smiling Federer said. “It’s like roulette. I always pick the right numbers.” Federer next faces fourth-seeded Marat Safin, whom he beat in last year’s final. But while Safin was exhausted then after playing six grueling matches that took more than 18 hours, he’s been on the court only 10 ½ hours through five matches so far, including 90 minutes Tuesday to beat No. 20 Dominik Hrbaty 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. Third seed Lleyton Hewitt  held off a late charge by Argentine David Nalbandian  to win a drama-packed match 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 3-6, 10-8 in 4 hours 5 minutes, and reach his first Australian Open semifinal. Hewitt, who needed treatment for a hip injury after the 4th set, held on grimly to wild cheers from a Rod Laver Arena crowd on Australia Day. Hewitt said: “I just had to dig deep in the fifth set, and yet again the never-say-die attitude came out.” In the 5th set, Nalbandian was three times within two points of victory, the closest leading 8:7* (30/15). Hewitt becomes the first Australian man to reach the semifinals since Pat Rafter in 2001 and added: “It’s a long way from holding up that trophy yet but I’m hanging in there.” Hewitt beat Nalbandian in the 2002 Wimbledon final but had never made it past the fourth round at his home Grand Slam since his first appearance in 1997. Ninth-seeded Nalbandian’s game dropped right off in a prickly 2nd set after a series of poor line calls went against him. Former world No. 1 Hewitt appeared to brush Nalbandian at one change of ends and had several altercations with officials including the umpire whom he called an idiot. Nalbandian, 23, beaten by Hewitt in the 2002 Wimbledon final, had all the momentum going into the 5th set and although he got within two points, Hewitt seized his chance when he broke in the 17th game and served out for victory. “We both had chances but I think maybe he was maybe a little bit more lucky than me,” Nalbandian said. Hewitt stated: “I told myself to give everything and in the end it paid off once again.It’s a long way from holding that trophy up there, but I’m hanging in there.” Andy Roddick was leading the Russian 26th seed 6-3, 7-5, 4-1 at the time Nikolay Davydenko called a halt with apparent breathing problems in the stifling conditions on Rod Laver Arena. Roddick did not have a taxing workout against the ailing Davydenko, who was playing in his first Grand Slam quarter-final and was still receiving treatment hours after walking off the court. “He actually talked about it the other day after his last match,” Roddick said. “I probably would have taken that information to the grave with me, but he said he was a little short of breath at the end of the match yesterday and then it was pretty toasty out there.”
Marat Safin ended Roger Federer‘s 26-match winning streak to reach the final of the Australian Open. The Russian fourth seed, celebrating his 25th birthday on Thursday, overcame the defending champion 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6), 9-7 in 4 hours 28 minutes. Federer never found his best form and received treatment for elbow and back pain at the start of the deciding set. He battled back from 5:2* down in the 5th and saved six match points, but Safin won it on the seventh. “It doesn’t matter how many match points you have, you have to really win it,” said Safin, who was runner up in the last two years of the event. “It’s like a brain fight against each other. It’s Federer, therefore already psychologically it’s really difficult. He puts you under pressure, no matter how many match points you have. I have lost to him seven times and he’s just so good. It’s a little difficult to explain what I am feeling right now.” Federer was typically generous in defeat. “He was the better player – I’m hoping for a rematch but I am thrilled to be a part of it,” he said. “It is really unfortunate. I thought I played really well and a point here and there changed the match. That was a pity but at least I gave it a fight. And my back was fine, just a nerve which went to my finger.” Federer had looked on course to retain his title when he won the 1st set with just one break of serve. But some uncharacteristic errors saw Safin take the 2nd – the first Federer had lost in the tournament. The Swiss had one match point of his own at 6:5 in the 4th-set tie-break (he already led 5:2* in the tie-break) but Safin produced a superb lob that the world number one could not return. And Federer then saved two match points at 3:5 in the deciding set, another at 4:5 and recovered from 15/40 down at 6:7 (at 6-all Federer squandered a mini-match point). [ Federer played the entire match in blue T-shirts, but before 16th game of the alst set, he wore a whit one. ] It was a similar story at 7:8 and, although Federer hit his 22nd ace to save the first, Safin manoeuvred his opponent out wide on the forehand and came to the net to fire a forehand winner into the empty court (Federer stumbled in the meantime). “To come back and still fight to win, it’s a little bit difficult because psychologically you’re upset that you’ve already had your chances,” Safin said. “For some reason I found the power to fight and tried to wait for my opportunities and eventually they came, even though it took me five, six, seven match points… It’s enough match points.”Lleyton Hewitt was at his aggressive, fist-pumping best Friday, withstanding 31 aces by Andy Roddick in a 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 6-1 victory to reach the Australian Open final. Hewitt, who has angered three opponents with his shouts to pump himself up, fired up the crowd. But one man was too vocal for Roddick’s tastes – he complained about a fan shouting during his service motion in the 7th game of the 3rd set. “I’m usually pretty money in those,” Roddick said. “Either one of those would have given me a distinct advantage. I’m mad. I felt I was in there with a shot. He put himself in position to win big points. I donated a little more than I would have wanted.” Roddick came out hot, jumping ahead 2:0. The second-seeded American converted his fourth break-point opportunity when Hewitt hit a forehand that was called good but TV replays indicated was just long. As he has done so often, Roddick relied on his blistering serve to get out of early trouble. He had six aces as he served at 5:3, using them to fend off four of Hewitt’s five break points in the game. He then finished off the set with another two. Roddick made it seven aces in a row with four in the next game. But Hewitt had only three unforced errors in the 2nd set, which marked the first appearance of his trademark “Come on!” while pointing his fingers at his forehead in the 16temh game – much later than usual. The third-seeded Aussie still needed a tiebreaker – Roddick had won all three that they had played despite’s the Australian’s 4-1 record in head-to-head meetings – to even the match. Hewitt had the only ace to pull ahead 6:3, and Roddick netted a backhand on the next point. After cracking 23 aces in the first two sets, Roddick had only eight in the last two. “It’s never routine, especially playing a guy like Andy,” Hewitt said. “He’s got so much firepower, and I had to weather the storm.” Roddick went ahead in the 3rd set when Hewitt double-faulted at break point. But serving at 4:2, 30/30, Roddick – clearly trying to put a little extra on his second serve – double-faulted twice to return the favor. He had only six double-faults in the previous five matches, but had nine against Hewitt. At the changeover, Roddick complained to chair umpire Andreas Egli about a fan calling out during his service motion. When Egli indicated he couldn’t control everyone in the crowd, Roddick responded: “You’re telling me I can have someone shout during every one of his serves and you can’t do anything about it?” He complained again in the next game after someone shouted as he served at 40/0 after his 27th ace. “It just took one jackass to shout out,” Roddick said later, adding the crowd overall was “very respectful.” Another tiebreaker, and Hewitt peaked at the right time again. From 4:4, he ran off the last three points, the last a backhand cross-court pass (Roddick led 3:1 in the second tie-break). Hewitt leaned low and pumped his fist three times with another “Come on!” Roddick took a break to change his clothes and said a tournament official hassled him for taking too long. “I asked him if he could tie one shoe for me and I could tie the other to save time,” Roddick said. “I wasn’t too fond of it.” Roddick came out flat for the 4th set but denied the encounter with the official hurt his play, Hewitt, who has been nursing sore thighs, had spent 14 1/2 hours on court – twice as long as Roddick – over of his previous five matches, including a four-hour, five-setter in the quarterfinals..” But he still looked strong at the end, breaking an increasingly downcast Roddick for the first time while jumping ahead 3:0 in the 4th set. Another break followed to make it 5:1, and Hewitt held for the match when Roddick sent a service return long.
Final: Mark Hodgkinson
It was the funniest of thank-you speeches from Marat Safin, his jokes as well-timed as the controlled violence off his strings. With his gags and his honesty, the Russian won over the Rod Laver Arena, a difficult crowd who had been clamouring for a Lleyton Hewitt victory at the centenary Australian Open. Soon even Hewitt was smirking. But when the giggling stopped, the disappointment hit Hewitt, who had convinced himself that he would become the first Australian man to win this Grand Slam for 29 years. Instead this prime-time match, the first major final played at night, marked the return of Safin, as the comic, the tennis player, and the force capable of winning majors. This was Safin’s second Grand Slam win (15th and… last title!), some five years after he had thrashed Pete Sampras in the final of the US Open. In New York he gave a near-perfect performance as a 20-year-old that led many to believe he would dominate and win countless titles. That never happened, and Safin just became the great enigma and underachiever of men’s tennis. Which is why his victory here was so satisfying, as he is starting to realize his talent again and seems to have the appetite for more. He has often been accused of squandering his physical talents with a suspect, racket-smashing temperament, but he has played some composed and disciplined tennis at Melbourne Park and was able to recover from a horrid, nervous start. This 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win in 2 hours 45 minutes, was the least Safin deserved after his murderous serve and brutish ground-strokes had ended the winning run and mystique of defending champion Roger Federer in the semi-finals. Although Hewitt was crushed by defeat, it would have been worse for Safin if he had beaten Federer and was then denied in the final. So no longer is Safin the one-slam wonder. “To win two Slams is something,” Safin said. “You can win one by mistake, like I did in 2000. But this one I worked really hard for. Winning Grand Slams is a psychological thing. I had to forget about 2000 because everything had come so easy for me that day.” As soon as Safin settled into a hitting rhythm, especially with the double-handed backhand winners that spat off the court and into the hoardings, there was very little that Hewitt could do about it, however much he tried to work himself into one of his frenzies. Towards the close of the piece, Safin was beginning to play like he had against Federer. Hewitt had been building towards yesterday for months, even training on Christmas Day, but his unwanted streak continues. He has now lost to the eventual champion in the last five Grand Slams, an uncomfortable statistic for a man of his competitive nature. “To come that close, it’s difficult to take at the moment,” said Hewitt, who had complained that the slow pace of the court did not suit him. Hewitt will take a month off, to rest his frayed body and to reflect on his tournament, in which he survived beyond the fourth round for the first time, and became the first Australian in the final since Pat Cash in 1988. But his determination was never enough against the class of Safin. Mark Edmondson remains as the last home winner of the Australian Open. This was the dream final for psychologists, with Hewitt’s mental toughness and frightening will to win to compare against the mood swings of Safin. But Safin’s coach, the Swede Peter Lundgren, has taught him to use his emotional energies a little wiser. And Safin needed that harder edge after his poor start. As the first set unfolded, you started to wonder whether Olivia Newton-John, who had warmed up the crowd, should have stuck on court and played it for him. He began to think about the two previous finals he had lost here, to Swede Thomas Johansson in 2002 when he had been so complacent that he partied the night before, and to Federer last year. “In the first set, I didn’t believe I could win,” Safin said. By the 3rd set, Hewitt was starting to feel the pressure himself. He was given a code violation for unsporting behavior at 4:2 when he screamed abuse at a line-judge who had called him for a foot-fault after he had struck a first-serve ace on break point. He was broken later in the game, and Safin had started a streak of seven consecutive games, the crucial period. Safin won those games between *1:4 in 3rd and 2:0* in 4th, and held his service games to the end, playing the best of them when it mattered the most – serving for the championship – he struck an ace (18 aces in the final), forehand winner and two service winners. Stats of the final