This is from the Wimbledon website- a preview of Safin and Lopez today:
Safin v Lopez preview
Over the past month Dinara Safina has been the Safin family member making headlines – winning her first Tier I title at Berlin, then reaching the final at Roland Garros against Ana Ivanovic. Meanwhile her older brother, former world number one Marat, had dropped off the radar.
That was until last week, when the Russian recorded a shock second round upset of third seed Novak Djokovic in straight sets. The performance by the 75th ranked player – who had, prior to the tournament, won back-to-back matches just twice this season – suddenly cast the handsome 28-year-old in the media spotlight. Well, almost.
Yesterday evening, there were no English speaking journalists to question Safin about his victory over thirteenth seed Stanislas Wawrinka – they all seemed to be off somewhere reporting on a British guy named Murray, but the Russian press was in abundance.
Safin’s progress at these Championships has all the hallmarks of a fairytale. Only once before has he made the quarter-final here – back in 2001 – and in the past has made no secret of his dislike for grass, exiting in the first week on every occasion since.
But that attitude appears to be changing. Earlier on in the week a jovial Safin thanked Wimbledon for making the courts slower and described the fact that he had reached the second week as a big achievement.
“I’m pleased with the way I’m playing, I think it’s pretty good tennis, a pretty good level,” he said. “I think I just start to feel much more comfortable match by match.”
But Safin is determined not to look further than his next match. “You don’t want to have a lot of expectations because when you start to have a lot of expectations you just end up losing in the third round to God Knows who,” he said.
“I’m just trying to get as close as I can to top 50. This is my goal just heading into the summer in the US. I think it should make a really huge difference. I would love to be seeded in the US Open.”
Helping that cause, the mental demons that plagued the temperamental Russian in the past appear to have been kept at bay. Yes, he has thrown his bat – but the racquet-smashing Safin of old has stayed relatively hidden this tournament. A calmer, more composed player has emerged.
Some might argue it is because he is winning and has yet to be properly tested. But he will have his work cut out in the form of number 31 seed Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who has beaten the Russian on four of their five meetings.
In fact, it was 26-year-old Lopez who ended Safin’s Wimbledon run in 2005, sweeping him aside in three sets, before falling at the quarter final stage to Lleyton Hewitt.
And yesterday, Lopez – who on Sunday watched Spain win the Euro2008 Championships with compatriot Rafael Nadal – demonstrated nerves of steel to save three match points and defeat number 10 seed Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in a five set tussle.
But like Safin, Lopez is not thinking past the quarters, describing his forthcoming match as “really, really tough”. “I want to focus on that match and don’t want to think about going father than that,” he said.
While Safin’s head-to-head may not look good on paper, he should be brimming with confidence given he has already knocked out the third, 13th and 29th seeds.
And perhaps this will be the match to determine whether the fiery Russian has finally found a way to keep his cool. Either way, it will certainly make headlines.