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    SAFIN HOPES TO BECOME WORLD'S FIRST RACQUET BY END OF YEAR

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    ABU DHABI, March 4, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - By the end of the 2004 season Russian tennis player Marat Safin hopes to occupy the first line of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rating list. This was disclosed by Marat Safin on Thursday in his interview with the Gulf News newspaper.

    The Russian, who was yesterday defeated at the Dubai Tournament by World's first racquet Roger Federer from Switzerland, explained his defeat by his misfortune at the tie-break and missed opportunities to channel the game in his favor. "This was not the issue of some diffidence on the court, since I have no problems with that," Mr. Safin said.

    "This is just the beginning of the season. We'll see how the situation will change in a couple of months," Marat Safin noted.

    The return of Mr. Safin on the first line of the ATP rating list is the question rather psychological than physical for him. A number of US Tournaments are ahead and Mr. Safin hopes to perform successfully.

    "The main competition will be between me and Federer, but of course there are other opponents to mind," Mr. Safin said. "Federer is an outstanding player, but I stand better chances for the victory on soil courts," he added.

    According to Mr. Safin, the next three months will be decisive. There will be time to look around and consider the course of the situation after the Wimbledon, he said.

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