Raging Safin Advances, Sampras Falls

APSafin signing autographs after a racket-wrecking win against Peruvian qualifier Horna in the third round of the Nasdaq-100 Open on Monday in Key Biscayne, Florida.
KEY BISCAYNE, Florida -- Russia's Marat Safin broke a racket in anger, drew a point penalty for another outburst, twice blew a third-set lead and still managed to beat Peruvian qualifier Luis Horna 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3) Monday at the Nasdaq-100 Open.

"I played bad," the No. 6-seed Safin said. "Just wasn't my day. But I was there. I fight. I'm not satisfied with my game, but I'm satisfied with my win, the way I fought."

The ragged two-hour, 17-minute victory advanced Safin to the fourth round, where he will face Chilean qualifier Fernando Gonzalez.

Gonzalez beat three-time winner Pete Sampras of the United States 7-6 (7-1), 6-1 later Monday, making it 24 tournaments in a row without a title for Sampras since he won a record seventh Wimbledon championship in July 2000.

Gonzalez, perhaps the hardest hitter on the men's tour, dominated after falling behind 4-1 in the first set. Sampras, often late reaching volleys, won only 22 of 48 points at the net and struggled with his service returns.

"It wasn't a good day. I got outplayed," Sampras said. "I just have to get back to work and not panic, and look at the big picture and the rest of the year. It's not the way I wanted it to go this week. But we've got a few more big events coming up."

The No. 11-seeded Sampras fell to 10-5 this year.

Top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt rallied to defeat Jan-Michael Gambill for the third time this year, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Also, Andrei Pavel of Romania beat No. 4 Tommy Haas of Germany 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (8-6) and American James Blake, whose ranking has risen to 49th from 187th in the past year, beat No. 15 Guillermo Canas of Argentina 6-4, 6-3. Swiss No. 12 Roger Federer eliminated Albert Portas of Spain 6-4, 6-1.

In women's play, the Williams sisters moved within one round of a semifinal showdown, which would be their first meeting since Venus beat Serena in last year's U.S. Open final.

No. 2-seeded Venus hit 26 winners to two for Amanda Coetzer and won 6-2, 6-0 in 44 minutes. No. 8 Serena swept Marissa Irvin 6-1, 6-4.

No. 3 Martina Hingis of Switzerland reached the quarterfinals by beating American Alexandra Stevenson 6-2, 6-0. Hingis has lost four games in three matches.

Venus needed just 44 minutes to beat No. 14 Coetzer of South Africa 6-2, 6-0. Williams hit 26 winners to two for Coetzer.

Also, No. 4 Kim Clijsters of Belgium swept Cara Black of Zimbabwe 6-4, 6-2 and No. 12 Yelena Dementieva of Russia erased six match points in a third-set tiebreaker to beat Anne Kremer of Luxembourg 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 (16-14)

Safin had his hands full against Horna, a scrapper ranked 136th. The balding 21-year-old Peruvian slid around the court several steps behind the baseline as though playing on clay.

Safin, who busted his racket near the end of the first set, twice lost his serve when he was up a break in the third set. After Horna pulled even at 4-4 in the final set, the hot-tempered Russian slammed a ball against the far backstop and drew a point penalty for a code violation.

That helped cost Safin the next game. But he regained his composure in the tiebreaker, winning seven of the final eight points and closing out the victory with a slam volley.

"Anything didn't work today," Safin said. "Didn't work the serve, didn't work the baseline. The volley wasn't great. But still, you know, I was there, 7-6 in the third."

Sampras was philosophical in defeat: "The years that I was No. 1 I was probably a little bit too consumed with the sport," said the 30-year-old Sampras.

"It's hard to say how really happy I was. I was happy winning tournaments. But in order to stay up there for as long as I did, it took a lot of sacrifice.

"You know, those days are over. I've lost enough hair over the years to all the worries and all the stress that I put on myself. ... I'm married and things couldn't be better. I just wish I could be playing a little bit better."

The U.S. Davis Cup team plays Spain in Houston next week. With Sampras losing, the only member of the U.S. team to reach the fourth round at Key Biscayne was Blake.