Paris :U.S. Open champion Juan Manuel del Potro ended Marat Safin's career on Wednesday, beating the two-time Grand Slam title winner 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in the second round of the Paris Masters.
The 29-year-old Safin, a three-time Paris Masters champion, played his last match in style, showing the Parisian crowd some terrific baseline winners, a fine touch at the net and strong first serves. But the Russian also made some horrendous unforced errors and threw his racket.
"I knew that I had not many chances to beat him," Safin said following a small ceremony on center court. "But I played pretty well, had pretty close calls and had a chance."
Novak Djokovic of Serbia advanced to the third round by beating Juan Monaco of Argentina 6-3, 7-5, and ninth-seeded Robin Soderling of Sweden kept alive his slim hopes of qualifying for the eight-man ATP World Tour Finals by defeating big-serving Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6 (6).
The 2000 U.S. Open and 2005 Australian Open titles are among the 15 Safin won in his career, but he hasn't captured another since that victory in Australia. His best result this year was reaching the semifinals in St. Petersburg, Russia, last month.
"Today I will put all my memories, all my wins and losses in a small box," Safin said after receiving a special trophy. "Today a door is closed, hopefully another one will open."
Del Potro, who will next face either 10th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez or John Isner of the United States, congratulated Safin at the net while the audience gave the Russian a standing ovation.
Djokovic traded breaks with Monaco in the first set, and then broke again in the eighth game before serving it out. He led 2-0 in the second set but then lost five consecutive games. He saved a set point in the eighth game before leveling at 5-5 with a combination of drop shots and powerful groundstrokes.
The third-ranked Serb broke to lead 6-5 when Monaco sent a backhand long, and then closed it out on his first match point.
"I didn't feel that great on the court," said Djokovic, who has never gone beyond the third round at the Paris Masters. "Probably a long week in Basel took on me physically. But I got a victory, and that's what matters the most."
Djokovic, coming off a win over top-ranked Roger Federer in the Swiss Indoors final last week, will next face either 16th-seeded Tommy Haas of Germany or Arnaud Clement of France.
Soderling, who will take on former champion Nikolay Davydenko in the third round, needs to at least reach the final to have a chance of qualifying for the season-ending event in London later this month.
Davydenko and Soderling are among five players still in the running to secure the two remaining spots. The others are Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco and Gonzalez.
Soderling won 72 percent of points on serve and hit 12 aces to beat Karlovic, who failed to convert any of his eight break opportunities.
Federer will launch his bid to win the Paris Masters for the first time later on Wednesday in a second-round match against Julien Benneteau of France. Second-ranked Rafael Nadal will play Nicolas Almagro in an all-Spanish match.