In moving forward, Safin goes to rear

Bizarre behavior comes in five-set victory over Mantilla in second round

French Open

May 29, 2004|By Charles Bricker | Charles Bricker,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

PARIS - Outside, with the heat and humidity forcing two players to quit matches with cramps, Guillermo Coria, Carlos Moya, Tommy Robredo, Amelie Mauresmo and Lindsay Davenport were turning up the volume with their rackets.

Inside, where Russian Marat Safin was fuming, it was even louder.

"They just basically destroyed ... they tried to destroy the match," he began with a stutter as he tried to explain what compelled him to pull down his shorts and give the crowd a look at his underwear in the fourth set of his five-set win over Felix Mantilla.

Safin had just closed out a lovely point with a deft drop that set the audience roaring its approval when, to celebrate his success, he mooned them, though none of his flesh was showing.

It cost him a point (he had earlier received a warning for racket abuse) and, though he stayed composed enough to win the match, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 11-9, he was fired up during the match and afterward.

He might have celebrated his fine win by raising his fist. Or by tapping his racket, as if to encourage more applause. He might, as soccer players do after a goal, have pulled off his shirt.

But this is Safin. He's different. He dropped his shorts.

"I don't know why," he said when asked to explain his bizarre move. "Because. Because. I did it. It just happened."

His offense fell under the "visual obscenity" clause. He was not fined for his wacky strip, but he will be nicked for $500 for the racket abuse.

The match, which took 4 hours and 37 minutes over two days, had been suspended because of darkness at 7-7 on Thursday and took 24 minutes to complete yesterday.

The win propelled the 6-foot-4 Russian into a third-round match with qualifier Popito Starace, the Italian who stunned France's No. 1 player, Sebastien Grosjean, in straight sets on Thursday.

Meanwhile, three favorites in the lower half of the draw dominated yesterday. Third-seeded Coria, No. 5 Moya and No. 17 Robredo thrashed Mario Ancic, Raemon Sluiter and Nicolas Massu in straight sets. Robredo was particularly impressive, beating Massu, the No. 11 seed, 6-2, 6-0, 6-2, without the loss of a service game.

On the women's side, No. 3 Mauresmo sailed past Arantxa Parra Santonja, and No. 5 Davenport, who keeps insisting she can't win this tournament because it's on clay, defeated qualifier Marissa Irvin of Los Angeles.

Moya's win set up an important match tomorrow that will pit his power against Robredo's speed and shot-making in an all-Spanish blockbuster.

Although Moya has easily won all three matches between them, including two this year, Robredo was a quarterfinalist here a year ago and has matured immensely in the past 12 months. He's playing with high confidence.

Safin remains a dark horse to win the title He has a difficult road. He's expected to get by Starace, but would then have to face No. 8 David Nalbandian in the round of 16 and top-seeded Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.

Perhaps he'll chill tonight after venting for 10 minutes in his news conference. He kept insisting that what he did not only didn't hurt anyone, but was good for the game.

"It's like, what, an entertainment business," he said. "You try to make it fun. I'm working my tail off on the court and it was great tennis for four hours.

"Because of this incident, that's how we get treated by the people from the ATP? You think it's fair? You think it's really fair?"

Actually, it wasn't the ATP, which runs the men's tour. It was the ITF, which runs the Slams, and ITF supervisor Mike Morrissey agreed with chair umpire Carlos Bernardes in assessing the point penalty.

"They do everything possible to take away the entertainment," Safin said. " ... You're not allowed to speak whenever you want to speak. It's just a joke."

It's unlikely that the ITF or ATP will approve rules changes in Safin's lifetime to allow the mooning of audiences, even as a celebration.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.


Men's singles

Second round

Marat Safin (20), Russia, def. Felix Mantilla, Spain, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 11-9.

Third round

Juan Ignacio Chela (22), Argentina, def. Alex Corretja, Spain, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Tim Henman (9), Britain, def. Galo Blanco, Spain, 7-6 (3), 6-1, 6-2. Michael Llodra, France, def. Julien Jeanpierre, France, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Nicolas Escude, France, def. Mikhail Youzhny, Russia, 6-2, 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-2. Tommy Robredo (17), Spain, def. Nicolas Massu (11), Chile, 6-2, 6-0, 6-2.

Guillermo Coria (3), Argentina, def. Mario Ancic, Croatia, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2. Carlos Moya (5), Spain, def. Raemon Sluiter, Netherlands, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4. Olivier Mutis, France, def. Fabrice Santoro, France, 6-0, 6-2, 6-3.

Women's singles

Third round

Marlene Weingartner, Germany, def. Nadia Petrova (8), Russia, 6-3, 6-2. Maria Sharapova (18), Russia, def. Vera Zvonareva (10), Russia, 6-3, 7-6 (3). Paola Suarez (14), Argentina, def. Tatiana Perebiynis, Ukraine, 6-3, 6-3. Lindsay Davenport (5), United States, def. Marissa Irvin, United States, 6-1, 6-4. Magdalena Maleeva (21), Bulgaria, def. Meghann Shaughnessy, United States, 6-3, 7-6 (3).

Amelie Mauresmo (3), France, def. Arantxa Parra Santonja, Spain, 6-3, 6-2. Zheng Jie, China, def. Tathiana Garbin, Italy, 5-7, 7-6 (1), 6-2. Elena Dementieva (9), Russia, def. Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi (19), Israel, 0-6, 7-6 (2), 0-1, retired.

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