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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Safin, Youzhny advance at St. Petersburg Open

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP)—Former champions Mikhail Youzhny and Marat Safin advanced to the second round of the St. Petersburg Open with straight-sets victories on Wednesday.

Youzhny, the 2004 winner, beat Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-2, while Safin, who won consecutive titles in 2000-01, ousted Richard Gasquet of France 7-6 (5), 6-4.

Youzhny, fresh from winning the Kremlin Cup last week for his fifth career title, broke 139th-ranked Golubev early in the first set and jumped to a 4-0 lead in the second.

“Then there was no trouble to bring it to the victory,” said a relieved Youzhny, who admitted to feeling tired.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Safin has almost completed his last season on the ATP Tour. The Russian fired 14 aces and closed the match on his second match point when Gasquet returned wide and long.

“Frankly speaking I was lucky to win the tiebreaker,” Safin said. “Gasquet served hard through the entire match and it was difficult to read his serves, but he lost concentration in the end and it helped me.”

Safin will next meet countryman and fifth seed Igor Andreev for the first time in two years.

In second-round action, second-seeded Victor Hanescu of Romania beat Illya Marchenko of Ukraine 6-3, 6-4. Hanescu, a semifinalist last year, reached his first quarterfinal in 11 events since July.

Ernests Gulbis of Latvia upset fourth-seeded Jeremy Chardy of France 7-6 (7), 6-3 to secure a spot at the Australian Open.

“I won 28 points on my first serve in the first set. He played well and I was lucky to win several key points on the tiebreaker,” said Gulbis, who won five consecutive games in the second set.

Eighth-seeded Horacio Zeballos of Argentina also progressed, ousting Ukrainian qualifier Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. 6-3, 6-4.

Karol Beck of Slovakia retired because of flu while trailing Bjorn Phau of Germany 6-4, 2-1.

Also, Igor Kunitsyn upset seventh-seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-4, 6-3, ensuring six Russians passed the first round.

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