Safin makes excuses for Paris Masters exit

When you have surrendered a title you battled so hard to win, you can be entitled to a moan or two.

But Russia's Marat Safin, who was knocked out of the Paris Masters in the third round on Thursday, left nothing to chance when it came down to explaining his 6-4, 6-4 surrender at the hands of Sweden's Andreas Vinciguerra.

The former U.S. Open winner and world No. 2, who had clinched the title here in a thrilling five-set win over Mark Philippoussis twelve months ago, offered up not one, two or even three reasons why he may not have been at his best - but six explanations as to why things did not go according to plan.

In order of appearance at the Russian's post-match inquest, they were:

- "I have played six weeks in a row. I'm tired. Too much time on the tennis courts."

- "In Russia, a lot of people came to the tournament. You have to meet the press. Too much going on around us. I couldn't handle it anymore."

- "I had problems with my back this year. I couldn't recover. I couldn't make any good results."

- "I started to change racquets."

- "They could have put me on the center court in Paris. I think I deserve it."

- "On Court One, the lights are different. I can't see very well in those lights."

It's all a long way from this time last year when the 21-year-old from Moscow had won his first Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows, collected seven tour crowns and had stashed away a healthy $3.5 million for his 12 months work.

Safin entered 2001 at No. 2 in the world but his season has only picked up in recent months as he finally shrugged off his nagging back problems to reach the semifinals at Indianapolis and the U.S. Open before winning two tournaments in Tashkent and St. Petersburg.

"It's been a strange year and a bad year," said Safin whose defeat by Vinciguerra ended what slim hopes he had of making it to the Masters Cup in Sydney later this month.

"Now I need to prepare myself for next year and try and get in the top five. That's my goal. I am not interested in being number six or seven. You can't get motivated that way.

"I'm happy that this year has finished. I couldn't give anymore, but that's life. I was dead out there against Vinciguerra," said Safin who has still to decide on whether or not to continue working with coach Mats Wilander next season.

"Some things need to be improved - we both know that. We will have to sit down and talk about it."

Copyright пїЅ 2001 Nando Media
Copyright пїЅ 2001 Agence France-Presse