Safin commits to L.A Tournament 2001



Diamond year for tournament

Marat Safin, the player many believe is poised to become the new dominant player in men's tennis, will play in the 2001 Mercedes-Benz Cup at the Los Angeles Tennis Center-UCLA.

The young Russian, who upset 13-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras to win the 2000 US Open final, is the first major star to commit to the Mercedes-Benz Cup which celebrates its 75th extraordinary year in 2001.

Safin has enjoyed a breakthrough year, winning five titles at Barcelona, Mallorca, Toronto and Tashkent in addition to his US Open coup. He was also a finalist at Hamburg and Indianapolis, compiling a 57-21 singles match record and posting earnings of $2.1 million.

"We are extremely delighted that Marat has committed for the 2001 tournament," said LA tournament director Bob Kramer. "He is an exciting young talent who has captured the imagination of tennis fans throughout the world with his outstanding play this year. His early commitment is a wonderful start to our player field for our diamond anniversary tournament, which promises to be something very special on next summer's sports and social calendar."

The Moscow native's meteoric rise to tennis stardom began in 1999 when he won his first ATP Tour singles title at Boston. He also advanced to the fourth round at the French Open last year.

One colleague impressed by Safin's powers is Pete Sampras. "The way he's playing, he's the future of the game," Sampras said after Safin became the youngest Grand Slam champion since Sampras in 1990. "He's more powerful than I was at 19. He's more developed. He serves harder. He doesn't have many holes (in his game) and moves well for a big (6'4") guy."

The Mercedes-Benz Cup, presented by Balance Bar, features a 32-player singles draw and a 16-team doubles competition to be played at the Straus Stadium of the Los Angeles Tennis Center-UCLA.

The landmark Southern California tournament is an International Series event on the worldwide ATP Tour and offers total player compensation in excess of $1 million.

Previous winners of the Mercedes-Benz Cup, whose history dates back to 1927, include this year's winner Michael Chang as well as Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Stich, Boris Becker, Richard Krajicek, Stefan Edberg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Arther Ashe, Rod Laver, Pancho Gonzalez, Jack Kramer and Don Budge.