Safin mesmerised by Santoro
Australia - 20 September 2000
Top-seeded Russian Marat Safin refused to blame his shock
first round defeat at the Olympics tennis tournament on fatigue,
saying he was just angry to be mesmerised yet again by Frenchman
"I'm angry with myself because I can't fight for the gold
medal," the U.S. Open champion said. "I'm angry because I
couldn't make it to the number one in the world. I'm angry
because I'm losing to Santoro and I'm angry because of the
But mainly I'm angry at myself." Santoro made it five career
wins without defeat against the strapping, 20-year-old Russian,
who had just arrived in Sydney from Tashkent.
He won a tournament there on Sunday after travelling straight
to Uzbekistan from New York following his stunning U.S. Open
triumph over Pete Sampras.
Safin arrived in Sydney at 5 a.m. on Tuesday but would not
blame his defeat by Santoro on fatigue or jet lag.
"I'm not old. I'm 20 years old. I have enough energy to play.
"I was fit. It's not a physical problem because I think I
played a great, great first set. And I played also in the
third set. So it's not the problem."
The problem is Santoro, a master of disguise and change of
pace, who upsets the hard-hitting Russian's rhythm with his
off-beat assortment of slices, drop shots and top spin drives.
Then there's the mental game, where Santoro also excels against
Safin, anticipating the Russian's moves like a mind reader,
gliding over to the appropriate side of the court when the
Russian has a choice of where to drive a ball.
"Most of the time I can read his game pretty well," said the
27-year-old Frenchman, whose uncanny ability to guess right
clearly irritated Safin.
"But even if I know exactly where he's going to put the ball
and everything, he's a great player, so he's tough to beat."
Safin said later he was upset at the chair umpire for not
overruling what he thought was an obviously bad call against
him in the ninth game of the third set, but in the end the
Russian had only himself to blame.
"Somehow, I don't know why, I just give him the match," Safin
said about the spell Santoro puts him under. "I gave him the
second set. I had to fight for it, and I was trying to fight
but my concentration was just gone and it was a mistake.
But I think next time I'm 100 percent sure. I was very close
today to beat him." Safin will likely get another shot soon
at Santoro, but a run for Olympic gold will have to wait four