WIMBLEDON, England - A match involving Marat Safin is always worth watching. He's liable to moon the crowd, smash several rackets or dominate the world's best player, as he did against Pete Sampras in the 2000 U.S. Open final.
For a change, Wimbledon inspired Safin's best behavior and tennis Wednesday, much to the chagrin of Novak Djokovic. Finally comfortable on the grass he long has loathed, Safin pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament so far with a workmanlike performance to beat the third-ranked Djokovic 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-2.
Safin has been battling a slump for months, or even years, and the big Russian expressed surprise to find himself in the third round.
'The last time I won two matches in a row was I don't remember when,' he said.
Djokovic, this year's Australian Open champion, was dismayed to catch the erratic Safin at a peak.
'I didn't expect it, honestly saying,' Djokovic said. 'Playing him on Centre Court obviously motivates him more to do well.'
Safin's stunner made a good day even better for No. 1-ranked Roger Federer, who beat Robin Soderling 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3). Djokovic was in the same half of the draw and posed a potential impediment to Federer's bid for a sixth consecutive Wimbledon title.
While Djokovic made his earliest exit at a major event in 21/2 years, a lucky bounce for new No. 1 Ana Ivanovic prevented a double defeat for Serbia. Facing match point in the second set, Ivanovic hit a
forehand that hopped over the net cord for a winner, and more than 90 minutes later she completed a victory over Nathalie Dechy, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 10-8.
'Someone from upstairs made the ball roll over,' Ivanovic said. 'If it wasn't for that net ... I would be booking my flight back home.'
Dechy said she cried for an hour after Ivanovic won.
'Maybe today she can go and play the Lotto,' Dechy said. 'It would be a good day for her.'
Two-time champion Serena Williams said she was less than thrilled about playing on Court 2, known as the 'Graveyard of Champions,' but there were no ghost sightings as she beat 17-year-old Urszula Radwanska 6-4, 6-4.
Williams will next face 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo, who rallied past Virginia Ruano Pascual 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
The two other Americans on the schedule also won. Bethanie Mattek reached the third round at a major event for the first time by beating Vera Dushevina 7-6 (6), 6-4, and she next plays 2007 runner-up Marion Bartoli. Bobby Reynolds matched his best Grand Slam showing when he defeated Frank Dancevic 4-6, 7-6 (10), 6-4, 6-4.
As for Safin: The grass-hating, nightlife-loving, racket-throwing Russian with the roller-coaster resume took the court figuring he might soon be back in Moscow.
'There is a flight at 8:30 leaving every evening,' he said with a smile, 'so I was almost there.'
Safin's ranking has been falling faster than the shorts he dropped in glee to celebrate a nifty shot at the French Open four years ago. He arrived in London at No. 75 with a record of 10-13 this year, and he hasn't won a tournament since 2006.