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Safin, Hewitt and Henman lose in Rome
Updated: 2004-05-07 14:04

Marat Safin, Lleyton Hewitt and Tim Henman joined the long list of top players leaving the Italian Open early.

Safin lost to eighth-seeded Nicolas Massu 7-5, 6-4 Thursday in his second match of the day, former No. 1 Hewitt was beaten 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 by Andrei Pavel, and fourth-seeded Henman was eliminated 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 by Mariano Zabaleta.

Not necessarily good news with the year's second major starting at Roland Garros on May 24.

"The clay-court season is probably one of the toughest for me, and the big picture is the French Open," Henman said. "If I feel confident, then I feel like I can compete with the best players even on a clay court."

The Italian Open's top-seeded trio of Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Rainer Schuettler lost earlier in the week.

Three straight days of bad weather disrupted matches across the Foro Italico, and Thursday's play combined the second and third rounds.

Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champion and twice an Australian Open runner-up, beat 10th-seeded Paradorn Srichaphan 6-2, 6-2 Thursday, then struggled a few hours later to keep up with the much fresher Massu.

Both players stayed at the baseline for more than two hours of lengthy rallies, and Safin sought respite during changeovers, breathing deeply and resting his arms on the back of his chair as if he were sitting on his sofa at home.

After a slow start, Safin made a valiant effort to get back in the match and make both sets close, but ultimately was undone by 45 unforced errors (Massu had 29).

Safin was scheduled to play a doubles match with partner Mark Philippoussis later Thursday.

After Hewitt's loss, the two-time major champion complained that he did not have as much time between matches as his opponent. He was also angry that the match was relegated to an outside court without a full team of linesmen.

"One of the worst scheduling things I've ever seen," Hewitt said.

Tournament director Sergio Palmieri said he "understood" how Hewitt felt, but that the schedule was made by a small committee — including a player representative — and when the schedule "is done, it's done."

Against Zabaleta, Henman was in control and seemed comfortable in the cold, Wimbledonlike conditions in the first set. As the match wore on, however, Zabaleta's baseline game warmed up, and Henman became more erratic.

Henman hit more winners than Zabaleta (28 to 18), but also made more than twice as many unforced errors (30 to 14).

Elsewhere, No. 5 David Nalbandian defeated Flavio Saretta 6-2, 6-4 Thursday, and No. 6 Carlos Moya beat Ivan Ljubicic 6-2, 6-4. Moya, the 1998 French Open champion, held serve throughout for a second straight match and wasn't bothered by a 26-minute rain delay in the first set.

Also, Filippo Volandri of Italy upset 11th-seeded Sjeng Schalken 6-2, 6-3. Immediately after, workers covered center court with a tarp for the day's third rain delay.

Earlier, in a match continued from Wednesday, David Ferrer upset seventh-seeded Sebastien Grosjean 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2, and No. 12 Jiri Novak dismissed Max Mirnyi 6-1, 6-1.

In a meeting of unseeded players, David Sanchez was a 7-5, 6-2 winner against Guillermo Canas, who beat Roddick on Tuesday. And 6-foot-10 qualifier Ivo Karlovic — who stunned Hewitt in the first round of Wimbledon in 2003 — was a 7-6 (5), 6-4 winner over Tommy Robredo, the champion at Barcelona last week.

When rain interrupted Thursday's play for the fourth time, Moya's third-round match against Karlovic was rescheduled for Friday morning.

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