Safin ousts top seed Davydenko

MOSCOW: Russian tennis icon Marat Safin battled from a set down to advance past top seeded compatriot Nikolay Davydenko into the second round of the Kremlin Cup here on Wednesday.

Safin, 76th in the ATP rankings, won 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in a replay of 2006 final at the $2 million tournament here to level his head-to-head record with 28-year-old Davydenko at four wins all. “I was serving and receiving good today and managed to avoid basic mistakes,” Safin said. “That gave me an opportunity to stay in the match. It seems that Nikolay (Davydenko) had not yet recovered after his win at Shanghai and later on I took advantage of his mistakes.”

Davydenko looked confident from the start breaking early in the opening set for a 4-2 lead after Safin, who announced his decision to retire at the end of this season, produced a catalogue of errors in the fifth game. Two-time Grand Slam champion Safin desperately fought back but failed to level as Davydenko proved too accurate and kept his lead through for a one-set lead.

No big serves were produced in the second set until the 10th game, when Safin broke to level at one-set all after one hour 21 minutes on court. In the fourth game of the deciding set Davydenko suddenly lost his nerve allowing Safin produce two more breaks to win the set and the match.

Another Russian Mikhail Youzhny, the third seed, barely broke sweat on his way to the quarter-finals, beating Italy’s Potito Starace 6-1, 6-1. Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay, seeded fifth, battled from a set down to move into the last eight with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia.

On the women’s side of the draw, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, the third seed, lost her chance to clinch a place in the season-ending WTA championship in Doha crashing to a 6-3, 6-3 opening round defeat to Russia’s Maria Kirilenko. The 10th-ranked Radwanska blamed a minor injury for her defeat.

Meanwhile, Italy’s Flavia Pennetta, the fourth seed, retired with a left knee injury after she won 6-4 the first set and was trailing 3-0 in the second. Russian Elena Vesnina was also eliminated after a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 loss to compatriot Evgenia Rodina, ranked 127th in the world.