x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Overworked Safin reaches last eight at LA Open

Marat Safin, playing for the fourth time in three days, summons enough energy to beat Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the second round of the LA Open.

LOS ANGELES // Marat Safin, playing for the fourth time in three days, summoned enough energy to beat Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the second round of the LA Open on Wednesday. Safin, who played an exhibition match against Pete Sampras on Monday and beat Robby Ginepri the following night, also teamed up with Igor Kunitsyn to win a first-round doubles on Monday. "It was different conditions," said Safin, 29, after advancing to his third straight Los Angeles quarter-final.

"It was during the day, so it's completely opposite the night. The balls are flying much more so it's tough to really control them and it takes some time to get used to it. I was a little bit slow at the beginning of the match." The win over Gulbis put the two-time Grand Slam champion into his first quarter-finals of the year and earned him at least a day off from singles play. The grind is a big reason why Safin says he will retire at the end of this season.

"It's getting tougher and tougher to play these kinds of matches, to fight when you're struggling and not playing well," Safin said. "It's difficult to motivate yourself and take care of your body. You have to spend much more time in a gym and practicing. There are so many (other) things to do. I need some vacation, take half a year just to relax and realise that I'm not anymore a tennis player and to understand that there is life afterwards.

"I need to relax. There was so much stress throughout the years. There is no matches, there is no more match points, there is no more deuces, there is no more second serves. It's a different way of thinking and I need to take some time off to really understand it." In the quarter-finals, Safin will meet two-time champion and top seed Tommy Haas of Germany, who defeated Jesse Levine 6-1, 6-3 in the final singles match on Wednesday night.

Also advancing to the quarter-finals was John Isner of the United States, who overcame an injury late in the second-set tiebreaker to beat Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 6-3, 7-6 (11). The Australian qualifier Carsten Ball moved on with a 6-4, 1-0 victory over No 3 seed Dmitry Tursunov of Russia, who was unable to continue in the second set due to a left ankle injury. Isner twisted his left ankle and collapsed on the court after trying to reverse a forehand that gave Baghdatis an 11-10 lead in the tiebreaker.

Baghdatis was the first to reach Isner and hovered over him until a trainer arrived. Isner got to his feet after several minutes, but was limping noticeably and unable to put much weight on the left ankle and foot while serving. The injury seemed to affect Baghdatis more than Isner, though. "He missed a second serve return (to make it 11-all), something he hadn't done really all match, and I hit a forehand as hard as I could and closed my eyes and it went in, right off the line," said Isner, who won on his fifth match point when Baghdatis hit a backhand long.

"I was extremely fortunate to get through that match." Isner and Ball are scheduled to meet in Friday's quarter-finals. Isner pulled out of doubles as a precaution. It will be the fourth quarter-finals of the year and the second in two weeks for Isner, and the first on the ATP Tour for Ball. *AP