Russia’s Marat Safin dropped his first set of the tournament but kept his temper in check to beat Mario Ancic in the Australian Open today.
Safin had cruised through the opening two rounds in Melbourne but was given a tougher test by rising star Ancic.
The fourth seed occasionally threatened to repeat some of his legendary racket breaking feats but maintained his cool long enough to complete a 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 third round victory.
Safin was on court for more than 21 hours during the championships last year, playing a record-equalling 30 sets before losing out to Roger Federer in the final.
“I’m much more comfortable right now than I was last year because I had a lot of tough matches in the first week,” admitted Safin. “This week is a little bit easier.
“I’m playing a little bit smarter, and I’m just trying to save my time on the court and try to be focused from the first point and try to keep it as short as I can because it’s a long tournament and there is no need to waste energy on something you don’t have to.
“I’m getting older. Soon I am going to be a quarter of a century in this world. That’s a big number! I’m trying to save myselfas long as I can, try to keep myself calm on the court also because against these kind of players, like Ancic, you go crazy and you might never come back.
“It’s difficult, of course. If somebody’s judging you and saying ‘It’s not correct, it’s not right, you should behave this way,’ of course you have to improve in a better way. But also you have to pass through this stage.
“I think I passed it and I’m much calmer. It’s okay. It’s my past. I have to live with that. It wasn’t so bad. I don’t regret anything I did before, nothing, zero, because it had to happen to be here. If it would be a different way, I might not be here at all.”
Safin will face Olivier Rochus in the fourth round after the diminutive Belgian defeated Slovakia’s Karol Beck in four sets.
Defending champion Roger Federer swiftly extended his winning streak to 24 matches when opponent Jarkko Nieminen was forced to retire from their third round match.
Nieminen had been a break up in the early stages of the first set but was trailing 6-3 5-2 when he indicated he could not continue with a stomach injury.
Federer, who has not lost a match since the second round of the Olympics in Athens, will face either Spain’s Tommy Robredo or qualifier Marcos Baghdatis for a place in the quarter-finals.
Also through to the last 16 is Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty, who needed four hours and 21 minutes to get the better of French Open champion and 10th seed Gaston Gaudio.
The first three sets all ended in tie-breaks and took almost three hours, before 20th seed Hrbaty fought back to take the fourth 6-1 and the decider 6-3.
Hrbaty will face former champion Thomas Johansson after the Swede survived his third five-set match in succession.
Johansson recovered from two sets to one down to beat American Kevin Kim 3-6 6-2 6-7 6-2 6-2 and could face Safin in the quarter-finals in a repeat of the 1992 final.