Defending U.S. Open tennis champion Marat Safin of Russia has reached the tournament's third round in New York. Safin says he will have a difficult time repeating as champion.

Safin won a lot of fans last year with his U.S. Open victory. The young Russian laughed and joked while playing great tennis. Even though Safin is ranked Number Three in the world this year, his season lacks the same flair.

Safin's match Thursday against the hard serving Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia was a big test. The match was tight as Safin won three of four tie-break sets. He feels he has lost some of the magic he felt during last year's easy straight sets win over American Pete Sampras in the final. "It was too perfect, too perfect, I think," he said. "I cannot play like this all the time. It can happen once in my life, last year."

Safin may be under-estimating his talent. He is still a threat to win, even if his confidence is not as high as last year. The defending champion is considered the favorite in his third round match, which will be against Hicham Arazi of Morocco.