Top-seeded Roddick loses quarterfinal match to Safin

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Andy Roddick is out of the Australian Open and will lose the No. 1 ranking -- all because Marat Safin is back at the top of his game.

Safin's 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (0), 6-4 upset of Roddick in the quarterfinals came on the Russian's 24th birthday. Not long after Roddick smashed his racket and left the court, the crowd serenaded Safin with a rendition of "Happy Birthday."

"I'm back: That's the most important thing," said Safin, who was unseeded and ranked 86th.

He was the U.S. Open champion in 2000 and Australian Open runner-up in 2002, but he missed most of last year because of injury and there was some question if he would ever return to tennis' elite.

This was the first time Roddick was seeded first at a Grand Slam. He said he's not worried about losing the top ranking to Roger Federer or Juan Carlos Ferrero, who have quarterfinals Wednesday, because he'll have chances to get it back.

"No one can take away from me the fact that I was there and that I did have it," he said. "It's going to be jumping around, I think, a little bit this year."

The match ended a dramatic day in which the busiest people at the tournament were the doctors and trainers.

Defending champion Andre Agassi earned a semifinal berth when ninth-seeded Sebastien Grosjean defaulted with a groin injury after losing the first set. Agassi, eyeing his fifth Australian Open title and ninth Grand Slam crown, will face Safin in the semifinals.

Agassi extended his winning streak to 26 matches at the Australian Open, spanning championships in 2000, '01 and last season. He sat out 2002 after wrist surgery.

The 33-year-old Agassi noticed Grosjean, a semifinalist in 2001, was going for low-percentage shots late in the first set but didn't know the Frenchman was injured.

Agassi took the first four games, won the set 6-2 and pulled ahead 2-0 in the second when Grosjean, who was out eight weeks last year with the same injury, defaulted.

"That's not a good way for anything to end," Agassi told the crowd.

In the women's quarterfinals, Switzerland's Patty Schnyder advanced to her first Grand Slam semifinal, beating Lisa Raymond 7-6 (2), 6-3 in the Australian Open.

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