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Safin wins, could miss Wimbledon
Updated: 2005-06-07 15:39

Marat Safin played through a knee injury Monday at the Gerry Weber Open to beat wild-card Alexander Popp 6-3, 6-2 and could be forced to miss Wimbledon.

Russian tennis player Marat Safin returns during the first round tennis match against Alexander Popp from Germany at the ATP Gerry Weber Open on Monday, June 6, 2005 in Halle, western Germany. Safin won by 3-6, 2-6. [AP]

The Australian Open champion won his first match on grass in three years, but his left knee was ailing after the first-round victory.

"It hurt out there. If it feels the same before Wimbledon, I will withdraw," Safin said. "I will sit down with my trainer and the doctor and make a decision."

The second-seeded Russian is joined at this key Wimbledon tuneup by top-ranked Roger Federer and French Open champion Rafael Nadal.

Seventh-seeded Tommy Haas defeated Jiri Novak 6-4, 6-1; fourth-seeded Guillermo Canas ousted Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-4; and No. 8 Feliciano Lopez edged Kenneth Carlsen 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5).

Safin has a dismal record on grass, a surface he dislikes. Last year, he was eliminated in the first round of Halle and Wimbledon. In 2003, an injury forced him to skip the whole grass-court season.

"It's more mental than physical," said Safin, referring to his aversion to grass courts. "But today I played impressively, considering my knee hurt. Your head's not there because you're always worried about what happens if you move left or right."

Safin was able to power shots deep into the corners against Popp, a 6-foot-7 grass-court specialist from Germany who has twice reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Safin said his knee has bothered him for two months, making it difficult to work on his conditioning.

"I always say the year is too long. We don't have time to recover," said Safin, who did not specify what precisely is wrong with his knee. "It's an option to withdraw from Wimbledon, but it's a big tournament, a lot of points. I might do well there."

Two-time defending champion Federer and Nadal could meet in the semifinals with both facing relatively easy draws.

"It will be interesting to play here in Halle and in Wimbledon," Federer said. "I see him being a good player on all surfaces."

Also, Jurgen Melzer edged Alberto Martin 7-5, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3); Olivier Rochus beat Cyril Saulnier 6-4, 6-4; and Florian Mayer defeated Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 7-6 (4).

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