Gives Russia 1-0 Lead in Moscow
20, 2002, Sports Palace "Luzhniki", Moscow, RUS, by
Marat Safin gave Russia a vital 1-0 lead over Argentina in their
Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Semifinal at Moscowï¿½s Luzhniki
Stadium this afternoon. The Russian No. 1 came from a set down
to defeat Juan Ignacio Chela 67 75 75 61 in a tense four-set
encounter lasting three hours and 10 minutes.
It is said that the sign of a champion is someone who can
win even when theyï¿½re not playing well. Today Safin managed
to win despite struggling with the court surface, his nerves
and the countless break points that he managed to squander
en route to victory.
The Russian came into the match boasting a 2-0 head-to-head
record over his opponent, but it quickly became apparent that
the Argentine was not to be going overawed by the occasion.
Serving well and employing a powerful forehand, he stayed
with Safin throughout a tight first set, saving the only break
point either player faced, in the seventh game.
The set went into a tiebreak, where Safin hit a backhand
return winner on the first point, only to lose the next seven
to send cheers throughout the small crowd of Argentine supporters.
When Safin somehow contrived to miss seven break points at
3-3 in the second set, it looked as though it was not going
to be the Russianï¿½s afternoon. However serving at 5-6 30-30,
Chela saw an attempted forehand winner land just wide, and
a forehand lob that landed long on the following point allowed
Safin to level the contest.
The turning point of the match came in the eighth game of
the third set. The Argentine, who broke the increasingly vunerable
Safin serve to lead 4-3, then committed two backhand errors
at 40-15 on his own delivery to enable his opponent to tie
up the set. The Russian then missed two set points at 5-4,
three more at 6-5, and it was perhaps inevitable that it needed
a Chela double fault to hand Safin the set on his sixth set
With the loss of the third set, Chelaï¿½s head seemed to drop
and he dropped his opening two services games to trail 4-0.
Treatment for a foot injury merely delayed the outcome, with
the Russian wrapping up the fourth set 61 to the delight of
a packed stadium.
Afterwards a delighted Safin confessed that he had been fortunate
to pull out the match. ï¿½I always struggle to play on this
surface, and have never had good results on it. I was very
nervous at the beginning, but found my game in the third set
and I think the decisive moment was breaking back for 4-4.ï¿½
The Russian admitted that he feels additional pressure in
the light of Yevgeny Kafelnikovï¿½s announcement that he is
to retire from tennis should Russia go on to capture the Davis
Cup. ï¿½It is difficult enough to play a tie at home, but Yevgeny
tells me almost every day that he wants to retire. I want
to help him, and I want to help my country, and that places
more pressure on me.ï¿½
A disappointed Chela agreed he had squandered chances in
the third set. ï¿½I had a big chance at 4-3 40-15, but I wasnï¿½t
focused enough and made mistakes. Marat played better than
me on the important points. In the fourth set I became really
tired and struggled to concentrate.ï¿½