MELBOURNE:Russian Marat Safin, on his way home after a brief Australian Open sojourn, says nobody on the ATP Tour can catch Roger Federer.
Safin, who conquered Federer on the way to winning the 2005 Australian title, made his earliest exit from the season-opening Grand Slam in nine years when he was dumped in the second round by 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis on Thursday.
Baghdatis held off a spirited comeback from Safin to win a five-set thriller to set up a third round showdown with Lleyton Hewitt on Saturday.
Safin was dismissive of a question at his post-match press conference that if he had managed to squeeze past Baghdatis he had the game to master Federer later in the draw.
"I just lost to Baghdatis. We're not talking about Roger Federer. Roger Federer is a different level person, different level player," Safin said.
"The way he's moving right now, he's full of confidence after being the number one in the world and winning 12 Grand Slams for the past five years.
"So I guess with the confidence that he has I would play also the same way as Roger does."
Safin echoed the sentiment of Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, who took just three games off Federer in their second round meeting here on Thursday.
The 35-year-old Frenchman, playing in his record 62nd Grand Slam, believes the Swiss champion is a better player now than he has ever been.
"He's still working hard. He's still improving. It's tough to say because he was a tremendous player over the past four years, but I think he's a better player today and a better athlete," Santoro enthused.
"I feel like he's (Federer) coming from somewhere else."
Safin spoke along the same lines when he said no one on the men's Tour could be compared with Federer.
"It's tough to compete against him and have to compare to him. He's the best by far, and he will be the best in tennis," the Russian said.
"I don't think anybody in here on ATP Tour can be compared to him."
Safin, ranked 58 and a three-time Australian finalist, said he is not discouraged after losing so early in the tournament.
"I have to deal with that. The year is pretty long, so I'll have my chances, that's for sure," he said.
"I'm happy with the way I'm playing and the results will come pretty quickly. So I'll just keep continuing working."