Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Djokovic sent home by Safin in Wimbledon's second round
ESPN.com news services
WIMBLEDON, England -- Novak Djokovic was upset in straight sets by Marat Safin in the second round at Wimbledon on Wednesday, ending the Serb's chances of testing his theory about Roger Federer's vulnerability.
The 75th-ranked Safin won 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-2 on Centre Court. It was a stunning loss for the third-ranked Djokovic, who came to the All England Club confident after beating top-ranked Federer in the semifinals at this year's Australian Open en route to his first Grand Slam tournament title.
The 21-year-old Djokovic came up against one of the toughest second-round opponents he could have drawn.
Former No. 1 Safin has won two Grand Slam titles. One came when he upset Federer in an Australian Open semifinal en route to the 2005 title. Safin beat Djokovic in the first round of that tournament -- their only previous meeting.
"It was certainly a very bad day for me," Djokovic said. "I didn't do anything that I was supposed to -- he was very solid in all segments."
Djokovic had said Federer, bidding for his sixth consecutive Wimbledon crown, was vulnerable after his recent lopsided French Open loss to No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal.
The hype surrounding those comments set up an enticing semifinal here. Now, it will be Safin who tries to go down that path.
Novak Djokovic appeared a shadow of the player who won the Australian
Open and reached last year's Wimbledon semifinals.
Safin said he came in under the radar, with Djokovic under all the pressure.
"He's the one who has to win matches. For me, nobody expects anything," said Safin, who admitted he had not dared look beyond the second round. "Now, I'll have to check -- the way I'm playing now, I could go far."
He next plays 29th-seeded Andreas Seppi, who beat Florent Serra 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-4.
Djokovic seemed to be vulnerable himself, playing on a surface he is not entirely comfortable on and struggling with his serve in a blustery breeze. After saving three match points, he served a double-fault to give his Russian opponent a fourth and then double-faulted again to concede.
"I was serving a lot of double-faults, which is unusual," said Djokovic, who was broken twice in each of the first and third sets and broke Safin's serve only once. "I was just not finding my momentum."
After losing, Djokovic shook his head as he walked forward and hugged Safin across the net. Djokovic said he might have had too much respect for Safin's obvious but often erratic talent.
"Safin is a player who is known as a big talent, but again, he makes a lot of unforced errors," he said. "I had opportunities, but I just made some unforced errors, which were really uncharacteristic, without any sense.
"Safin still has his ups and downs and is known for his mental instability in some ways, but he's still a great player. He wants to step it up again. [Today] he was mentally there," he said.
Grass is not Safin's favorite surface, either. Wimbledon is the only major where he has not advanced beyond the quarterfinals. But he is a dangerous opponent now.
Lleyton Hewitt, another former champion, also survived Court 2.
The only other Wimbledon champion in the men's draw, Hewitt advanced with a 7-6 (4), 6-0, 6-2 win over Albert Montanes of Spain that was much quicker than his opening five-setter.
Federer is most at home on grass -- he is on a 60-match winning streak on the surface. His potentially tough second-round match on Centre Court against Sweden's Robin Soderling was anything but -- Federer won 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Federer recovered a break in the third set to secure the victory on his second match point in the tiebreak.
"I'm relieved because it could have gone to four and Robin is a good player and I was really pleased to come through," said Federer, who will play Marc Gicquel or lucky loser Ilia Bozoljac in the third round.
"It was a tougher game than my first-round match -- Robin has a bigger serve and a more dangerous game on grass -- but I played well, I was moving well and serving well," he said.
Soderling needed treatment for a blister on his left foot during the second set. He did achieve something no other player had against Federer on grass this season -- breaking the Swiss star's serve once.
Another former No. 1, Juan Carlos Ferrero, had to retire with a leg injury in the third set when he was behind 6-4, 6-4, 2-1 to 20-year-old Mischa Zverev. Ferrero reached the quarterfinals last year before losing to Federer.
Stanislas Wawrinka, Federer's 13th-seeded Swiss countryman, beat Juan Martin Del Potro 7-6 (5), 6-3, 7-5 and American Bobby Reynolds had a 4-6, 7-6 (10), 6-4, 6-4 victory over Canadian Frank Dancevic, who had ousted No. 7 David Nalbandian in the opening round. Also advancing were No. 10 Marcos Baghdatis, who beat former Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson 6-4, 6-4, 6-4; fifth-seeded David Ferrer, who beat Igor Andreev 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2; and No. 11 Tomas Berdych, who rolled to a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-1, 6-2 win over Victor Hanescu.
Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.