Second seed Safin self-destructs against Hrbaty
MELBOURNE (Reuters) -- Second seed Marat Safin self-destructed at the Australian Open on Sunday, crashing 6-2 7-6 6-4 to 14th seed Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia in the fourth round.
"It's ridiculous what I made today on the court... It was a little bit of a disaster," the Russian said afterwards.
Hrbaty had not made it past the first round in his last two visits to Melbourne but succeeded in booting the U.S. Open champion out of the season-opening grand slam in just over two hours.
"I just played well today. I felt the ball great. I was playing a little bit faster than Marat today," Hrbaty said.
The Slovak sizzled from the start against the world No. 2, hammering flat balls from the baseline and serving flawlessly.
"I didn't give him a chance to hit winners on my serve," said Hrbaty, who came into the Australian Open after winning a title in Auckland.
The unpredictable Safin had a bad day, time and again misfiring or allowing Hrbaty to pounce on short offerings and put them away for winners to all corners of the court.
Safin had his chances, grabbing early breaks in the first and second sets, but he held his serve just once in the first set.
He put up a better fight in the second set, fending off two set points on his serve at 5-6, and another three during the tiebreak, but eventually paid the price for a few too many loose forehands into the net.
His confidence sapped at two sets down, Safin felt like there was nothing he could do to turn the match because he was unable to move Hrbaty around.
"I was afraid to hit the ball. I was afraid to change the directions," said Safin.
Hrbaty needed only one more service break in the third set to sew up the match as Safin hammered a backhand into the net on the final point.
"I didn't make anything, absolutely nothing, to beat him today," Safin said.
Hrbaty came to Melbourne Park this year better prepared than in the past, having played on hard courts at the Hopman Cup in Perth and in Auckland.
"In the beginning, I didn't believe really I could play on hard surfaces. I've learned how to move on the hard court surface," Hrbaty said.
He will play 12th seed Pat Rafter of Australia in the quarterfinals in the bottom half of the men's draw, which also features defending champion Andre Agassi.
Rafter rolled eighth seed Tim Henman of Britain in straight sets.
"I have nothing to lose. He's higher seeded than me and I will fight and try to beat him," Hrbaty said of Rafter.
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