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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safin Wins Over Fans, Bookmakers

APRussia's Safin seems to be back to the form that saw him win the 2000 U.S. Open, and he is now the favorite to win in Melbourne.
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Everyone wants to be in Marat Safin's corner since his demolition of Pete Sampras at the Australian Open.

Bookmakers have installed the towering Russian as the new tournament favorite and his entourage is growing by the day, with his courtside private box overflowing with supporters.

Safin has dropped only one set in his first four matches and his fourth-round destruction of Sampras was an ominous warning to his remaining rivals that he is back to the form that saw him win the U.S. Open.

As the only player left in the draw who has already won a Grand Slam title, the sometimes hotheaded Safin is the popular choice to win this year's championship and is slowly gaining in confidence.

"It's growing from day to day and I think I have a big chance," said Safin, who was to play South African Wayne Ferreira in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Ferreira has amazed everyone, including himself, just by getting to the quarterfinals and is a long shot to beat the rampant Safin for the first time after two previous losses.

The 30-year-old Ferreira, who was once ranked as high as sixth in the world, has not made a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Wimbledon 1994 but has squeezed into the last eight here with a string of gutsy performances.

He saved two match points in the third set of his third-round match with Ivan Ljubicic before coming back to win in five, then beat Albert Costa in his next match in another marathon five-setter.

"It's like wine, you get better with age. I might be getting slower but I can last longer," Ferreira said.

The winner of their match will face either Chile's Marcelo Rios or German Tommy Haas in Friday's semifinals after they square off in Wednesday's second men's quarterfinal.

Rios reached the Australian Open final four years ago on his way to briefly claiming the No. 1 ranking but has been plagued by injuries ever since.

Haas, seeded seven, is the highest ranked player left in the draw but had to come through a tough five-setter against Roger Federer to reach the quarters and has won just two of his six matches against Rios.