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Safin signals clay threat in Paris
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May 27, 2007 20:06 IST

Former world number one Marat Safin signalled that he could threaten the favourites for the French Open title after brushing aside Spain's Fernando Vicente 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 on Sunday to reach the second round.

The Russian, a semi-finalist in 2002 but beaten in the first round last year, needed just one hour, 24 minutes to advance.

"I need to get the rhythm and the timing in order to play good tennis," he said. (But) I think I can manage to pass two rounds and, if I do, then I'm going to be dangerous."

Vicente, in the draw as a lucky loser, has not won a match at Tour level since June 2006 -- a run of 11 straight defeats -- and once Safin won the first set the result was rarely in doubt.

Safin won just three matches on clay in the build-up to Roland Garros and his expectations were low coming into the second grand slam event of the year.

"(My form) wasn't even ups and downs, it was just downhill," he said.

"I didn't do anything special on the clay courts. I lost difficult matches in Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg. But here is a little bit of a different story because it's five sets and a big tournament.

"Even though you might feel you're not playing well, you have enough time to catch up and start to play better and better. You have always a chance."

Safin, the number 22 seed, maintained his concentration in light rain in the third set to set up a match with the winner of the all-Serbian clash between Janko Tipsarevic and qualifier Dusan Vemic.

Safin said that as his confidence grows he could be a threat to the favourites.

"I need to stick around and get through a couple of rounds to get the groove," he said.

He added that champion Rafael Nadal or world number one Roger Federer would win the tournament.

"Nobody even can come close to beating them on clay, especially here," Safin said.

"Roger beat him 6-0 in the third set in Hamburg and it looks like he has finally found how to play against Rafa.

"But I'm pretty sure that Rafa had been playing many tournaments already and was tired. The final in Hamburg, I don't think it makes a difference. It is 50-50 (here)."

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