Safin falls in Ericsson Open opening round
For the second consecutive week a sore rib cage helped place
second seed Marat Safin of Russia on the sidelines after his
Safin, clearly still suffering the effects of a rib cage injury
he sustained in the Dubai semifinals last month, did his best
to survive a second-round encounter with Juan Balcells, but
was upset by the Spaniard 4-6 6-4 6-3.
The ailing U.S. Open champion was a first-round loser to Swede
Thomas Johansson at the Tennis Masters Series-Indian Wells last
The injury started to affect his left hip and during the match
against Balcells, Safin called the ATP trainer on court to complain
that his right hip hurting as well.
After winning the first set, Safin looking stiff and unable
to move without difficulty and the big Russian was unable to
sustain his early momentum.
The 68th-ranked Balcells, who won his first career title at
Bucharest last year, was able to exploit Safin's mobility problems
by running the second seed around the court.
Known for his serving prowess, Safin had to satisfy himself
with simply putting the ball in play, giving Balcells an easy
Safin ended up winning only 40 of the 77 points in which his
first serve went in and just 16 of 32 points second-serve points.
Still, Safin managed to hang on, splitting the first six games
of the final set before getting broken at love in the seventh.
After Balcells held serve for 5-3, Safin struggled to try to
save his serve in the ninth game, but his aching body betrayed
him in that final game.
Safin survived one match point when Balcells hit a backhand
return of a second serve into the net.
Four points later, Balcells took advantage of a second match
point on Safin's serve with an exquisite backhand crosscourt
passing shot for the victory.