Ex-champ Safin bows out of last US Open in round 1

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/m/maratsafin_us.jpg' class='caption'> Marat Safin strutted off the Grand Slam stage with little of the sound or fury that accompanied so much of his combustible career.

Updated: September 03, 2009 07:27 IST
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New York:

Marat Safin strutted off the Grand Slam stage with little of the sound or fury that accompanied so much of his combustible career.

No postmatch pomp-and-circumstance for the two-time major champion and former No. 1-ranked player. No on-court interview. No bow to the crowd. And for the record: No broken rackets.

When Safin finished losing meekly to Jurgen Melzer of Austria in a fairly uneventful 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 first-round exit at the US Open on Wednesday, the big Russian simply collected his things and strode away with a quick wave.

Looking for some sentimentality? Not even a trace.

"It's OK. It's the end. So, just, it's the last one. Could have been better ending, but still OK," Safin said. "I don't care about losses anymore."

The 29-year-old Safin is retiring at the end of the season, so this trip to Flushing Meadows marked his last Grand Slam tournament. It's a fitting site for his finale: Safin burst onto the scene by upsetting Pete Sampras to win the 2000 US Open.

He called that victory "just a miracle for me."

"I really didn't believe I could get anywhere closer to the final of a Grand Slam. And then, after beating Sampras, I never really understood what happened," Safin said. "It was difficult, because I was 20 years old. I wasn't ready for this, so it's really difficult to understand it. ... I wasn't prepared."

Safin certainly gained a reputation for enjoying his status as a well-paid and popular sports star. Some say he frittered away the talent for powerful serves and groundstrokes, the tremendous court coverage.

He reached No. 1 in November 2000, before injuries and other issues dropped him from the top rather swiftly. Safin lost two major finals before adding a second Grand Slam title at the 2005 Australian Open.

But that would be it. He would never win another title of any sort, major or otherwise.

"To win two Grand Slams _ you have to really appreciate that and give him credit for that. Of course, he had the talent to probably win five or six. ... I guess he's happy _ I would be happy if I had a career like that," said Melzer, a 28-year-old who has never passed the third round at a major.

Apparently, Safin is, too, noting more than once on Wednesday that he has no regrets.

His career is fizzling out, with a 12-18 win-loss record in 2009, including a first-round loss at Wimbledon in June.

And his departure deprives tennis of one its more outlandish and outspoken stars.

As Melzer put it: "I don't watch a lot of tennis; I have a lot of tennis in my life. But when Marat played, I sat down and watched, because it was something you don't see from the other players."

That's for sure. This is a guy, after all, who once celebrated a great shot at the French Open by grabbing his white shorts and tugging them down to his thighs.

Safin was penalized a point for that _ he also was docked $500 for throwing a racket in the same match _ then later ranted: "All of the people who run the sport, they have no clue. It's a pity that the tennis is really going down the drain. ... They do everything possible to, you know, just to take away the entertainment _ 'You're not allowed to do that. You're not allowed to do this.'"

He's complained about the high price and low quality of the food in the players' restaurant at Wimbledon. And the list goes on and on and on.

As much of a talker as he is, Safin grew weary this year of speaking about his retirement. Not exactly the type for a farewell tour.

"It's too many questions about what I'm going to do, why I'm retiring, and this and that. So I answer the same question, I don't know, a thousand times. Just go on Google, and you have the same answer," he said on Wednesday. "But it's OK. Few tournaments to go, so I can manage."

The plan is to wrap things up at the Paris Masters in November. As for what comes after that, Safin won't say _ other than that he wants to get away from the world of tennis.

No TV job for him.

"I'm different than another person who wants to lay back and do nothing for the rest of the life and talk nonsense on ESPN, talk about my match against Sampras," Safin said. "I will not do that. I want to achieve something else."

When asked about being the opponent in Safin's Grand Slam goodbye, Melzer used the phrase, "if he really retires."

Why the word "if"?

"With Marat," Melzer said, "you never know."

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