Marat Safin Crashes Out

24 June 2002
Mike Donovan

Marat Safin, the second seed, suffered a Wimbledon exit today. The Russian was overcome by Belgian's Olivier Rochus who proved winning on grass is more than having a big serve in a match that became a Little and Large battle.

While Safin produced 21 aces, Rochus managed none as he went through into the third round with a 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 victory.

Yet Rochus, who defeated elder brother Christophe in the previous round, was fortunate to find the 2000 US Open champion in erratic form. Errors littered Safin's game as Rochus romped to a two sets lead.

The Monte Carlo-based Muscovite insisted before The Championships that grass was a difficult surface for him. Unintentionally, he went out and proved it.

The body language of 6ft 4in Safin gave away the frustration he was feeling inside as he littered his game with mistakes. He finished with 37 unforced errors in a Centre Court showdown against an opponent 11 inches shorter in height but bigger on consistency.

Safin reached the quarter-finals last year, but he only showed flashes of the form that got him there. His best tennis came in the third set in which he broke Rochus, world-ranked 64, for a 5-3 lead before closing the gap with a love service game.

He managed to force the fourth set into a tie-break but any hopes he had that he might pull the match out of the fire were put out in a one-sided tie-break, taken 7-1 by Rochus. He double faulted on the opening point to give Rochus a mini break. At 4-1 he took out his anger on the ball.

It was all over bar the shouting and Safin was silenced when Rochus took the match by forcing an error from the Russian.