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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safina Has the Genes For U.S. Open Success

NEW YORK -- The most prominent member of Russia's first tennis family is nowhere to be seen at Flushing Meadows. Marat Safin, who won the United States Open in 2000, was here early last week, long enough to have the cast on his left wrist removed and to watch his younger sister, Dinara Safina, win her opening match.

And the 71st-ranked Safina kept on winning. She advanced to the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Claudine Schaul of Luxembourg on Saturday. Her career began in earnest last year at the Open, when she won her first match, then won only one game against Serena Williams in the next.

Despite that experience, she still considers the Open her favorite major tournament. "I just like New York, from the juniors and maybe because my brother won here," the 17-year-old Safina said Sunday.

Her brother won in such style at age 20 -- ripping through Pete Sampras in straight sets with his athleticism and impressive two-handed backhand -- that it looked very much as if a new tennis era had begun. But it has yet to materialize.

Despite all his talent, Safin has been held back, mostly by injuries. Though he briefly reached No. 1 in the world in 2000, he has yet to win another major title. As the seasons pass and younger, healthier players like Roger Federer and Andy Roddick keep improving, the odds do not increase for Safin.

Though he was brilliant down the stretch last season and in top form in leading Russia to its first Davis Cup title, he has played sparingly this year because of a torn ligament in his wrist. The injury forced him to retire from the Australian Open in January and miss the last three Grand Slam events.

"The game needs a guy like that around; he's a great personality for the game of tennis," said Lleyton Hewitt, who blamed the length of the season, in part, for Safin's physical problems.

"I think there's got to be a way that the ATP or the ITF or everyone has to sit down and work out the schedule," Hewitt added. "I think the reason I got the chickenpox at the end of 2001 was because I was run down from playing so many matches and a Davis Cup final."

Safina, who splits her time between her native Moscow and her training base in Spain near Valencia, does not yet risk playing too many matches on the WTA Tour. Because of her age, she is still limited by the Tour's age-eligibility rules.

Nearly 183 centimeters tall, she is, like her brother, an intimidating presence. Though she has won three rounds at the Open, she has yet to play a seeded player. That will change tonight, when she faces second-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium, the French Open champion.

"I'm not thinking about winning the tournament yet," Safina said. "I'm just thinking about my [next match] and just to play good. Last year, I won one game. This year, I will try to win two games and then we'll see."