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September 20, 2000
Safin crashes out in Olympic seeds bloodbath
US Open champion Marat Safin crashed out of the Olympic tennis tournament in the first round on Wednesday, finally running out of steam in his third tournament on different continents in as many weeks.
Joining him on the sidelines were Britain's top player Tim Henman, former world number one Marcelo Rios, Michael Chang, Lleyton Hewitt and Greg Rusedski.
France's Fabrice Santoro, who had never lost to the new world number one in four previous meetings, continued his hold over the Russian with a 1-6 6-1 6-4 win. Santoro, ranked 35th in the world, will play Spaniard Fernando Vicente for a place in the third round.
Rios, who was eliminated by Argentina's Mariano Zabaleta, pointed the finger at his country's President Ricardo Lagos for distracting him before the match.
Rios admitted poor form and fitness was the main reason for the 6-7 (6/8) 6-4 7-5 defeat but insisted that Lagos's intervention in a row over his refusal to carry the Chilean flag at the Opening Ceremony had not helped his cause.
"All that caused me pain and that is why I did not parade although it was not a question of a rejection of the Chilean people or my country as on other occasions I have carried the flag and waved it when I can."
Tim Henman's dream of an Olympic singles medal to add to the doubles silver he won in Atlanta was shattered by Karol Kucera of Slovakia.
Kucera, a former top 10 player who is emerging from a slump triggered by an injury last year, was in superb form from the baseline as he beat the British seventh seed 6-3 6-2.
British number two Greg Rusedski also went out - beaten by Arnaud Clement of France.
Chang's hopes of using the Olympics as a platform to relaunch his flagging career were smashed when he was unceremoniously dumped out of the Games by an opponent 100 places below him in the world rankings.
Canada's Sebastien Lareau, ranked 125 in the world and only playing here on a wildcard, beat the American 16th-seed 7-6 (8/6) 6-3 in one hour and 31 minutes.
The defeat completed a dismal two days for the American men at the Olympics. Todd Martin and Vince Spadea both went out yesterday and Jeff Tarango is the only US player to have made the second round.
Chang, 28, had gone into the Games with his hopes high after an encouraging hard court season in the United States during which he won his first tournament for 20 months at Los Angeles.
The American will now try to pick up the pieces before heading for his next event, in Hong Kong, in the first week of October.
Aussie hope Hewitt was grounded by Belarussian Max Mirnyi in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.
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