U.S. Open Slice, Day 3: Marat Safin bids farewell to slams

FIRST SERVE

Marat Safin said goodbye to Grand Slam tennis on Wednesday with little more than a whimper, a conflict of character with the fiery persona that electrified his career.

Was it really just nine years ago that a fresh-faced, 20-year-old Safin blew Pete Sampras off the court in New York to claim the first of his two Slam titles?

As he headed into retirement - save for a few minor tournaments between now and the end of the year - Safin looked jaded and relieved to go, ground down by the rigors of the sport and the occasional excesses of his lifestyle.

Safin's defeat to Jurgen Melzer in the first round was laced with disappointment. After an explosive start he faltered badly, eventually losing to the Austrian in four sets, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

As he walked off Louis Armstrong Court you couldn't help but get the sense that Safin's talent was as much a curse as a blessing for the giant Russian.

There is no doubt he had the ability to add more silverware to his collection. But the mentality, so often, was not right and the motivation necessary to attain greatness was regularly absent.

"It is OK," said Safin. "It is the end. I don't care about losses anymore."

As soon as such words become possible for a professional athlete, it is time to go. This is Safin's time, and while there was no storybook ending, his decision is clearly the right one.

DROP SHOT

Serena Williams was in typically imperious form as she brushed aside Melinda Czink of Hungary in the second round at the end of Wednesday's night session, 6-1, 6-1. However, Williams' petulant stare-down of the line judge who "dared" to foot-fault her (even though her toe was clearly over the line) was in poor taste and deserves censure from the WTA Tour.

CLEAN WINNER

Flavia Pennetta's impressive summer continued Wednesday, with the 10th-seeded Italian demolishing India's Sania Mirza 6-0, 6-0. Pennetta is in arguably the best form of her career - and is a player to watch as the tournament progresses.

UPSET ALERT

No. 14 seed Tommy Robredo has a tough encounter against fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Court 10 on Thursday. Robredo has reached the fourth round here on five occasions, but Garcia-Lopez could bounce him out of the tournament if he finds his best form.

MATCH OF THE DAY

The opening match on Court Seven was the best of the day, with Andreas Beck surviving a spirited comeback from Evgeny Korolev to win in five sets. Beck raced into a two-set lead before being pegged back but held his nerve to take the fifth 6-4.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

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