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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safin, Sampras Stumble in Open Warm-Up

MELBOURNE, Australia — U.S. Open champion Marat Safin fumbled through a quick first-round loss Wednesday in a warmup tournament for the Australian Open and later withdrew from the Colonial Classic with a sore elbow.

"I’m afraid of making it worse. I don’t want to be out six months," Safin said immediately after his 6-2, 6-1 loss to France’s Nicolas Escude. He said he would consult a doctor.

Later Wednesday, Colonial Classic tournament director Colin Stubs said Safin had withdrawn, but he had no details on the extent of the injury or whether Safin would try to play in the Australian Open, starting next Monday.

In other matches, defending open champion Andre Agassi beat Germany’s Nicolas Kiefer 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 6-2, Spanish Davis Cup hero Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Pete Sampras 6-2, 6-4 and Olympic gold medalist Yevgeny Kafelnikov defeated two-time U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter 6-2, 6-2.

"It was a really ugly day at tennis," Agassi said of the 35-degree-Celsius heat and wind. "I feel good. It was a tough day to judge yourself too harshly."

Sampras, who took a break from competition for most of last fall, said, "It just takes a couple of matches. That’s why this week is a perfect preparation [for the Australian Open]."

Kafelnikov, who won the Australian in 1999 and was runner-up to Agassi last year, said he has come prepared, likes the hardcourt surface used for this tournament and the open and "I don’t know why I shouldn’t be one of the contenders to win the title again."

Rafter said his loss was a bit frustrating, but "if you’re going to play a bad match, this is the time to do it."

Safin, who climbed to No. 2 in the rankings after a dismal start in 2000, was fined for not trying at last year’s Australian. He has said he wants to show his true abilities this time.

Safin said a similar elbow problem kept him out of action for more than a month 18 months ago. The problem started flaring up again last week, he said, and in Wednesday’s match "I couldn’t serve."

He said six months would be the recuperation period if surgery were needed.

Safin said he kept playing Wednesday because of the paying fans and because "you have to finish if you are a real tennis player, a real man. … I couldn’t do anything better than this so I am very sorry. I’m not tanking.

"It’s difficult to play when you start to think about being sore," he said.