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SPORTS WEEKEND | U.S. OPEN

Safin Pushes Into Semifinals

September 08, 2000|JERRY CROWE

NEW YORK — Marat Safin, a young Russian who has gained as much notice for throwing rackets as winning matches, reached the U.S. Open semifinals Thursday with a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 quarterfinal victory over 14th-seeded Nicolas Kiefer of Germany.

The sixth-seeded Safin, who last month defeated Pete Sampras in the quarterfinals of a tournament at Toronto, will play unseeded Todd Martin on Saturday.

Kiefer said the 20-year-old Safin, a quarterfinalist at the French Open, is ready to break through and win the tournament.

"I think so, because the way he plays, I think his confidence is getting much bigger and bigger," Kiefer said. "For sure he has a great chance to get in the final."

The temperamental Safin broke 48 rackets last season and is on pace to eclipse that mark in 2000, having already broken "35 or 36," he said. He has smashed only one at the U.S. Open, despite playing two nail-biting five-set matches, but he always seems to have a conversation going on in his head.

"Sometimes I'm trying to push myself because I can play one set, and the next set I don't know what I'm doing," he said. "At least I'm trying to push me to move on, to get angry, to get into the game. That's it."

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