Messing: Canas Stuns Second-Seeded Safin To Reach Toronto
By Richard Pagliaro
tennis racquet is an endangered species in the hands of Marat
Safin. The unofficial ATP leader in destroyed racquets, Safin
has trashed more racquets than Pete Townshend has smashed guitars.
Tossing his racquet in frustration today, Safin didn't shatter
it, but succeeded in cracking his composure to pieces.
A gutsy Guillermo Canas wore down the second-seeded Safin
in scoring a 7-5, 6-3 triumph to advance to the semifinals
of the Tennis Masters Series-Canada. In his first career Tennis
Masters Series semifinal, the unseeded Argentine will take
on either third-seeded German Tommy Haas or unseeded Frenchman
Fabrice Santoro tomorrow to play for a place in the final.
Seeking his first title of the year, the second-ranked Safin
entered today's quarterfinal coming off a captivating comeback
victory over Chilean Marcelo Rios in which Safin overcame
deficits of 1-3 in the second set and 1-4 in the final set
to earn a hard-fought 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) victory. Meanwhile,
Canas proved himself to be a seed-slayer taking out 10th-seeded
Roger Federer in the first round before beating fifth-seeded
Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-2, 6-2 in yesterday's third-round.
The 2000 Toronto champion, Safin took the court with a 2-1
career record against Canas with Canas winning their only
prior meeting on hard court with a 6-3, 6-3 victory in the
first round of the 2001 Tennis Masters Series-Cincinnati.
Surrendering serve at 15 in his first service game, Safin
found himself trailing 0-2, but broke back in the third game
when Canas netted a forehand. Staring repeatedly at his sore
right wrist, Canas reflexively flexed the wrist as if trying
to stretch the soreness from the wrist. Withstanding the racquet-rattling
power of Safin while playing with a sore wrist is about as
easy as arm-wrestling King Kong while wearing handcuffs, yet
Canas countered Safin's advantage in power with his consistency
from the baseline and doggedly determined pursuit of every
shot. As one of the fittest players on Tour, Canas has never
seen a shot he didn't believe he could run down and his extreme
effort took a psychological toll on Safin, who frequently
felt he had won a point only to watch Canas run down the apparent
winner and force him to hit one more shot.
Consequently, Safin sometimes played more risky shots than
situations required, but was able to overcome his increasingly
faulty forehand with a strong serve in the first set. The
6-foot-4 Safin's superior serve enabled him to win 17 of 20
first-serve points in the first set, but the pesky play of
Canas proved problematic for the towering, temperamental Russian
on his second serve as Canas won 10 of 12 points played on
Safin's second serve.
Serving to stay in the set at 5-6, Safin hit a forehand wide
to go down double-set point at 15-40. He saved one set point
with a service winner, but at 30-40 Canas followed a forehand
into the net where he dropped down nearly to his knees in
delivering a dazzling drop-volley winner to secure the set,
7-5. The shot apparently served as the antidote to his wrist
ailment as Canas pumped his fist in excitement.
"The wrist has been very painful this week," Canas
said. "But I took a pill to kill the pain and now it's
He was ingesting pain killers before the match and Canas
proved to be a buzz kill during the match for a surly Safin,
whose mood turned sour following what he felt was a bad call
in the fourth game. The call пїЅ combined with Safin's frustration
over his own errant shots пїЅ caused the former US Open champion
to hurl his racquet to the ground in anger.
"Because of your bad calls, I'm losing the match,"
an angry Safin complained to chair umpire Steve Ullrich during
the changeover after he fell behind 1-4 in the second set.
A tremendous talent, who appears capable of hitting winners
from nearly any position on the court, Safin's physical prowess
is accompanied by concentration lapses that can make him appear
as focused as a college student enduring a mundane lecture
the day before spring break.
To his credit, Safin did not give up and held serve at love
to close to within 2-4, but desperately needing a break, Safin
started off the next game by blowing an easy overhead that
he pushed wide while Canas was completely off the court. Despite
donating the free point to Canas, Safin won the next two points
to take a 15-30 lead, but failed to put two successive returns
into the court off mediocre serves as Canas reached game point
and held for 5-2 on a brilliant short-angle forehand pass
Like a boxer willing to withstand a barrage of body blows
on the ropes, Canas spent much of the match absorbing Safin's
strongest shots before unleashing quick, concise counters
that stunned his larger foe. Serving for the match at 5-3,
Canas played the point of the match as he careened corner
to corner in running down four successive apparent winners
before pushing a backhand up the line to lead 15-0. The point
was a microcosm of the match: Safin seemingly in complete
command only to watch a determined Canas fight and fight before
turning a totally defensive position into a winner.
At 15-all, Canas slid a service winner wide to Safin's forehand
to reach 30-15 then served two successive aces down the middle
to vanquish his third seed of the tournament and raise his
record to 41-19 on the season, one win less than Andy Roddick,
who leads the ATP in victories on the season with 42.
The 12th-seeded Roddick plays another Argentine пїЅ 15th-seeded
Wimbledon runnerup David Nalbandian пїЅ in tonight's quarterfinal.
Canas, who could join forces with Nalbandian as teammates
on the Argentine Davis Cup team that takes on host Russia
in September's semifinals, said Nalbandian's Wimbledon run
has inspired his countrymen.
"It was good for everyone," Canas said. "He
(Nalbandian) made the Wimbledon final and showed us it is
possible we can do the same someday. I feel very confident
with the way I am playing and I'm very happy to be in the