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‘This is where it started, and this where it finishes’

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:49

Marat Safin’s rollercoaster career came to an emotional end with a 6-4 5-7 6-4 defeat at the hands of US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in the second round of the BNP Paribas Masters 1000.

The former world No.1, who had saved three match points against French qualifier Thierry Ascione in his first round match on Monday, fought bravely against the Argentine, winning a tight second set to keep the match alive.

Showing glimpses of the mercurial game that had seen him earmarked as the future of tennis by Pete Sampras after demolishing the American in the 2000 US Open final, Safin gave del Potro everything in what he admitted was likely to be his final match.

But the world No.65, who did not collect another title after clinching the 2005 Australian Open, was broken in the third game of the decider and could not recover the break. After saving a match point at 3-5, del Potro served out the match.

At the end, the Russian and Argentine embraced at the net as the Paris crowd gave Safin a raucous standing ovation.

“Today I will put all my memories, all my wins and losses in a small box,” said Safin. “Today a door is closed, hopefully another one will open.

“This is where it all started and this where it finishes,” he added. The Russian first hit the headlines as a teenage qualifier at the 1998 French Open, posting wins over Andre Agassi and Gustavo Kuerten. “There was no better place to do this.”

Safin won 15 titles in a career spanning 12 years, and reached the final of the 2002 and 2004 Australian Open and the semi-finals of the French Open in 2002, as well as leading his country to Davis Cup triumphs in 2002 and 2006.

“I’ve lived my life the way I wanted to, whether scaling the mountains, partying long into the night or having fun playing soccer,” he said in the run-up to his final tournament.

“As for my tennis career, I probably could have won a few more, but if it was up to me I wouldn’t change a thing.”

After the match Safin was honoured in an on-court ceremony which featured several of his fellow players, in said he would be going out last night to celebrate the end of his career but refused to go into any detail.

“There are a lot of married people here,” the Russian explained – an enigmatic end to an enigmatic career.

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