Thursday, October 8, 2009

BEIJING - Marat Safin sets up Nadal quarterfinal showdown, Is he saving the best for last?

Former world number 1, Marat Safin, who is retiring from tennis end of this season, posted a fantastic 6-3, 6-4, victory over seventh-seed, Fernando Gonzalez, in the China Open second round on Thursday, to book himself a spot in the quarterfinals.

The Russian who is currently at 59 in the world rankings, had lost his last 4 matches to Gonzalez in straight sets, had not won back-to-back matches since July in Los Angeles (a feat he only managed to achieve only one other time this season, back in the Aussie Open), and was 0 in 6 against top 20 players this season heading into this match. So you can imagine my disbelief when I saw Safin (recently know as Mr. Meltdown) closing out this match in utter confidence.

Safin, who won the title in Beijing in 2004 on his sole other appearance in the Chinese capital, served 12 aces against Gonzalez and served a healthy 62% first serves in. I don't think I've seen Safin play this loosely all year. He was focused, confident and calm against the Chilean; something very refreshing to see although it's kind of sad to see this sharp form from Safin only a few weeks away from his retirement.

The juicy part is yet to come though... Safin's quarterfinal opponent is none other than top seed, Rafael Nadal, who had to fight hard against James Blake to earn himself a spot in the last eight. Safin and Nadal had only met once before on tour and that was 2 years ago in the Canada Masters, which Nadal won 7-6, 6-0.

I can't wait to see this match. I'll definitely be rooting for both and I really hope it'll be a tight one. Any chance Marat still has some fight in him for this one??! We find out Friday.

Other Friday quarterfinal matchups include Fernando Verdasco [6] vs Novak Djokovic [2] and Nikolay Davydenko [4] vs Marin Cilic [8].

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