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Safin Makes Emotional Exit To del Potro

Paris (Bercy), France

Marat Safin© Getty ImagesMarat Safin compiled a 422-267 career singles record during his 13-season professional career.

Fifth-seeded Argentine Juan Martin del Potro knocked out three-time BNP Paribas Masters champion and wild card entry Marat Safin 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 Wednesday for a place in the third round at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament.

The 21-year-old del Potro won a big-serving encounter against Safin in one hour and 56 minutes.  Safin got himself out of trouble at 0/30, 5-5 in the second set and broke del Potro's serve in the 12th game to take the pair's first meeting to a deciding set.

Del Potro went on to break Safin's serve in the third game of the deciding set. He hit 11 aces and won 77 per cent of service points overall against Safin, who lifted the Paris title in 2000 (d. Philippoussis), 2002 (d. Hewitt) and 2004 (d. Stepanek).

Former World No. 1 Safin, who saved three match points against French qualifier Thierry Ascione in the first round on Monday, was playing his final professional tournament.  The 29-year-old Russian captured 15 titles, including the 2000 US Open (d. Sampras) and 2005 Australian Open (d. Hewitt), and amassed a 422-267 overall singles record in a 13-season professional career.

"[My best moments] came in different stages of my career," said Safin.  "Beginning with 1998 Roland Garros when I qualified and I beat [Andre] Agassi and [Gustavo] Kuerten and I lost to [Cedric] Pioline.  And of course there is the next one, winning the 2000 US Open

"I don't have a lot of them [titles] only 15, so not too many majors.  But they were really special and very welcome.  A lot of people [think] that I'm not really [a] hard worker, but you can ask all my coaches how I dedicated myself to tennis.  I worked for it, and I worked very hard."

Read a Safin retirement tribute in the next issue of DEUCE from 19 November.

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Del Potro said: "When I started to play ATP tournaments, I met him and I told to him 'You are my idol'.  After that, we started a good relationship.  He's very friendly [and] he speak Spanish.  He's a great person.  We will miss him in the tournaments."

The Argentine, who clinched the US Open title in September, will next face 10th seed Fernando Gonzalez of Chile.  Gonzalez kept alive his chances of qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals with a 7-5, 7-6(3) win in 90 minutes over American John Isner

Gonzalez, who added 90 South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings points for 2,870 points overall, converted one of eight break point opportunities.  This season’s Movistar Open champion in Vina del Mar improved to a 39-15 match record on the season.

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