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Battle of the big hitters
It's crunch time at the Australian Open as Marat Safin meets Andy Roddick.
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2007 08:55 GMT

Andy Roddick: an improved backhand has been credited to Jimmy Connors [GALLO/GETTY]

A match up worthy of a final pops up in the third round of the Australian Open with big serving duo Andy Roddick and Marat Safin squaring off on Friday.

In the first high profile match up of the event, sixth seed Roddick will get to test his progress under new coach Jimmy Connors against former champion Safin.
Neither player has been in their best form as yet in the tournament, but the Russian is renowned for playing his best tennis in Melbourne.

In his last four trips to Melbourne, the 27 year old has been champion and runner up twice.

"It's very important for us, for both of us, I guess, who is  going to be more aggressive at the beginning of the match and who  will take the opportunities and who will choke first," said the player who defeated Lleyton Hewitt in the 2005 final.

The pair are 3-3 in head-to-head matches with Safin coming out on top with a five-set win over Roddick in the 2004 Australian Open quarter-finals.
  
Safin's career five-set record stands at 26-11.
  
The Russian, who has also taken on a new coach with Alexander Volkov, has noted Roddick's improvement under the eight-time Grand Slam champion Connors.
  
"He's changed a little bit. He started to improve his backhand, and he's playing a little bit more solid," was Safin's appraisal.
  
"Other than that, he's using more of his serve and he's not running around the baseline. He's trying to go forward and take position at the net."
  
Roddick has been expecting to face Safin in the third round.
  
"When I saw the draw I expected to play Marat," Roddick said.

"I think we're both maybe better than a third-round match-up against each other.
  
"But that's the way it shakes out. You know, we both have to deal with it.  I'm sure he's not thrilled about it either."
  
The 24 year old joined forces with Connors last July, he then went through the US summer circuit with an 18-2 record, crowned by reaching the US Open final where he fell to Federer.

Source:
Agencies
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