Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Safin faces Hewitt in Monte Carlo on Tuesday

This is a rivalry that dates back to 1999, which was when those two players met for the first time during the Davis Cup semifinals in Australia. Lleyton Hewitt aided by a home crowd got the better of Marat Safin that time but from then on, both players won an equal share of their subsequent 12 meetings, with the Australian owning a 7-6 head-to-head record lead over Safin.

There has in fact been a pattern in the history between these two; since that first Davis Cup meeting between Safin and Hewitt, each player has alternated winning two straight matches against the other, up until Hewitt's last 2 victories over Safin in Las Vegas in 2007 and 2008. Which means that for the sake of the continuity of this pattern, Safin should win on Tuesday in his Monte Carlo first round match.

But all patterns and superstition aside, the numbers say that Safin and Hewitt are 1-1 against one another on clay, but those meetings came way back in 2001 and 2002.

Hewitt, who is currently ranked 57 in the world (36 spots below Safin), is coming off his first career claycourt title win in Houston, which means he's finding some form on that surface but could be suffering from a terrible jetlag right about now. Meanwhile, Safin should be all relaxed and ready for the event in Monte Carlo, since he resides in Monaco when he's not traveling on tour.

Since reaching the 3rd round at the Australian Open earlier this season, Safin has not won two consecutive matches in any of the tournaments he participated in, while Hewitt has reached the semis in Memphis and the quarters in Sydney, besides his Houston triumph.

However, Hewitt is far from a regular at the tournament in Monte Carlo as this will only be his 3rd showing at the event, unlike Safin who has only missed the tournament once since 1999. Safin's best appearance in Monte Carlo was reaching the semis in 2004 (lost to Coria).

The winner of this match will face Nicolas Lapentti in the second round with a possible third round match-up against top-seed, Rafael Nadal.

My verdict: Safin will keep the pattern going and will beat Hewitt in 3.

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