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Brilliant Safin shines in the dark
June 28, 2008 14:57 IST
Unseeded Russian Marat Safin [Images] illuminated the evening gloom at Wimbledon on Friday with another electrifying performance to beat Italy's [Images] Andreas Seppi 7-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 and reach the last 16.
Two days after stunning third seed Novak Djokovic the burly Muscovite produced some thunderous winners to edge past the 29th seed as darkness descended on Court One.
Safin had too much firepower for the steady Seppi in the first set, yet seemed on the verge of imploding during the second as the Italian capitalised on a string of unforced errors to break his serve three times.
The 28-year-old, a self-confessed hater of grass despite possessing the shot-making skills to excel on it, recovered his composure to take the third set tiebreaker 7-3 after a set of high-velocity baseline rallies.
Three consecutive service breaks at the start of third set added to the drama but it was Safin who edged ahead to arrive at 5-4 with his serve to come.
With the time approaching 9.30pm and both players miss-hitting wildly as they struggled to see the ball it was Safin who held his nerve despite a late fright.
Seppi looked set to level at 5-5 and probably take the match into Saturday when he earned two break points but Safin fired down some ferocious serves to escape in the nick of time, sealing victory on his second match point.
Safin said he had asked the umpire at 3-2 in the fourth set when they were going to stop playing and was surprised they were told to play on.
"At the end of the match it was pretty tough because we both couldn't see the ball," Safin told reporters.
"I was just trying to play fast points. Just attack or just go to the net or try to make a first serve, a winner, because I couldn't really see. I couldn't play the point. I was pretty nervous once I got the break."
The Russian, whose best performance at Wimbledon was a quarter-final appearance in 2001, can now match that feat if he can get past dangerous Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka who is yet to drop a set.
"I've never beaten him so I want revenge and I think it can happen here," Safin said looking ahead to his next opponent.