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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safin Sets Up Encounter With Roddick

APSafin clenching his fists after beating Sela in the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne on Wednesday.
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Marat Safin survived another tense five-set match to beat 21-year-old Israeli Dudi Sela 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 7-6, 6-0 in the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.

The 2005 champion who missed last year's tournament due to injury, was within two points of defeat in the fourth set before a rain delay helped him secure a potentially explosive clash with American Andy Roddick.

"I was struggling for about two sets and I couldn't understand what to do and I couldn't really serve," Safin told a news conference.

"Then the rain came and changed everything because otherwise I don't think I would have won."

Safin, seeded 26th, started well and overpowered his opponent in the first set, but Sela, ranked 202nd in the world, grew in confidence as his opponent started to make errors.

Safin's frustration mounted in the second set and Sela took advantage, moving the big 26-year-old around the court and using his speed and agility to good effect.

Safin, who kicked the net in anger after missing an easy volley, broke Sela's serve twice in the fourth set but the Israeli hit back to level at 5-5.

The players were forced off court by rain with Safin serving at 6-5 down and 30-30 but the 2000 U.S. Open champion returned to hit an ace and went on to take the tiebreak 7-4.

That settled him down further and he breezed through the final set, sealing victory in three hours, 21 minutes on his third match point.

Safin paid tribute to his opponent's performance: "Whatever I was doing, he was making passing shots all the way around the court, he was full of energy and showing great spirit," he said.

Safin, who was also taken to five sets in the first round, said he was looking forward to playing Roddick.

"It's an interesting match for both of us," he said. "He has changed his game a bit but I feel like I am ready after two five-setters. I am warmed up and not feeling tired."

Sixth-seeded Roddick proved he would provide a stern test for Safin as he cruised past the powerful Frenchman Marc Gicquel 6-3, 7-6, 6-4.

The big-serving American had too much power from the back of the court for the world No. 54 and came through on Rod Laver Arena after an hour and 56 minutes.

An early break took Roddick to the opening set and he held his nerve to win the second set tiebreak 7-4. Gicquel, who out-aced his rival 10-7, battled in the third but was broken in Game 10 to hand the former U.S. Open champion victory.

Roddick said his game was gradually improving after coming through his first-round match against Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four long sets on Monday.

"I thought I hit the ball a little better, hit the ball a little more solid," Roddick told reporters.

Turning his thoughts to Safin, he said: "When I saw the draw I expected to play Marat. I think we're both better than a third-round match-up but that's the way it shakes out."

The two last met when Safin beat Roddick to help Russia into last year's Davis Cup final. Their career meetings stand at 3-3, but Safin enjoyed a five-set victory against Roddick in the 2004 semifinal at Melbourne Park before falling to Roger Federer at the final hurdle.

"We've always had close matches. We're kind of similar, we both like to hit a big ball, we both serve pretty big, move well for being considered big guys.

"I think it's an interesting match-up for us and maybe for the fans as well."

Third-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova crushed Australia's Monique Adamczak 6-2, 6-1 to reach the third round.

The 2004 U.S. Open champion showed a few signs of the breathing problems that forced her out of the Sydney warm-up tournament last week, but she still accounted for her second home wild card this week in exactly one hour at the Rod Laver Arena.

Kuznetsova is seeking to improve upon her Melbourne Park best of reaching the quarterfinals in 2005.

The win set up a potential third-round match against compatriot and 26th seed Maria Kirilenko, who beat Julia Vakulenko of Ukraine, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Fifth-seeded Nadya Petrova beat Gisela Dulko of Argentina, 6-1, 6-2 to set up a third round clash with Serena Williams. The omens are not good for the Russian, who has lost five of her six matches against the American, but Williams has only just started playing after a long-term injury.

Mikhail Yuzhny set up a third round tie against defending champion Roger Federer with a 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 over Taiwan's Lu Yen-hsun Lu.

Federer himself continued his serene march towards a third Australian Open crown when he crushed experienced Swede Jonas Bjorkman 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.