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France hope Safin is below-par in Davis Cup quarters

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PARIS, Apr 5 (Reuters) France's Davis Cup captain Guy Forget hopes Russia's Marat Safin will not be at his best during this weekend's quarter-final.

The Russians beat France 3-2 in a memorable 2002 final in Paris, with Safin in intouchable form, and won by the same score in last year's quarter-finals in Moscow.

''Of course that will be on our minds but when you start a match thinking that you're going to take revenge, your concentration suffers and you're likely to miss your goal,'' Forget said.

Former world number one Safin made an impressive return from a seven-month injury layoff in February, beating compatriot Nikolay Davydenko in his first match at the Dubai Open. He also reached the fourth round in Indian Wells last month.

''We all know Safin and when he's on song, like he was in the 2002 final at Bercy, he's almost impossible to beat,'' Forget told reporters before the tie in Pau.

''I watched him twice in the United States and when you come back after such a long time out the game, there are times when you drop pace. Maybe we can make something out of that.'' Safin has not played Davis Cup since 2005's first round, and he joins a Russian team of Davydenko, Igor Andreev, Dmitry Tursunov and 2002 Davis Cup final hero Mikhail Youzhny.

Forget will rely on the same four players who beat Germany 3-2 in the first round - Sebastien Grosjean, Richard Gasquet and the doubles pair of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra.

Russia trounced the Netherlands 5-0 in the first round and realise France will be a tougher proposition.

''We have had some great battles with the French over the last few years and I'm sure our next match will be just as tough,'' said Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev.

''But the addition of Safin will give us greater options. He has been the leader of our team for a long time and his presence will help other players in many ways, on and off the court.'' France have won the four Davis Cup ties they have played in Pau. This weekend's tie will be played indoors on a quick surface.

REUTERS PM RK1856

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