Safin in doubt

By Darren Walton
January 10, 2003
The Daily Telegraph

Marat Safin is in serious danger of joining the Australian Open's growing sick list after withdrawing from the adidas International yesterday with inflammation of his serving shoulder.

The world No.3 is hoping, rather than expecting, to be ready for the year's first grand slam and will make a formal request for a late start to the tournament, which begins at Melbourne Park on Monday.
Safin was unable to serve during practice for his scheduled quarter-final yesterday against Korean Hyung-Taik Lee because of tendonitis of his right rotator cuff -- the same condition that forced Patrick Rafter to undergo surgery in 1999 -- leaving his Australian Open prospects in tatters.

"It hurts - I cannot serve ... [there is] a lot of pain," Safin said.

Safin is able to continue practising, with no other weapons in his powerful arsenal affected by the tendonitis, but his doctor, who rated the injury "quite serious", told last year's Australian Open runner-up not to serve for at least the next three days.

Acknowledging that the timing "cannot be any worse", Safin said he would resort to pain-killing injections if it meant getting back on court next week.

"If I have to do it, I will," he said.

It is a first-time injury for the 22-year-old and is a direct result of his heavy workload.

He has played 274 tour matches, plus Davis Cup, in the past three years.

The Russian's 2002 season was longer than most, having been required for Masters Cup and Davis Cup duty and only having three weeks rest before resuming training for the Australian summer.

"Too much practice," he said with a smile. "For the last couple of weeks, I practise quite a lot.

"Also, I'm at the gym. It's too much exercise is what they told me ... just too tired."

But while he has long complained about there not being enough time between seasons in tennis for the top players, Safin didn't directly blame the ATP's hectic schedule for his setback.

While conceding he did have a choice of how much to play, he felt he was being penalised for being so successful.

"It's not fair," he said.

"Some people got one month and a half [off] right after the Masters.

"Even the people who didn't get into the Masters, they had almost two months of vacations. I get just two weeks."

Safin said moving the Australian Open back to March was "one of the best ideas" he had heard lately.

"It's difficult [in January] because everybody just came out from the pre-season. Nobody's really ready," he said.

"They come to play two weeks before the Australian Open and basically you're not ready, you're not fit."

The men's field for the Australian Open has already been depleted by injuries to defending champion Thomas Johansson, former finalist Arnaud Clement, as well as would-be seeds Tommy Haas, Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski, Marcelo Rios and Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

And injuries will prevent three-time champion Martina Hingis and 1999 finalist Amelie Mauresmo from taking their places in the women's draw.