Secures Place in Davis Cup Final
22, 2002, Sports Palace "Luzhniki", Moscow, RUS, by
Marat Safin produced a display of power serving to steer Russia
into the Final of the 2002 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. The Russian
No. 1 sent down 25 aces as he won a rollercoaster four-set encounter
with David Nalbandian 76 67 60 63 to give Russia an unbeatable
3-1 lead over Argentina in their Semifinal tie in Moscow.
Juan Ignacio Chela then defeated substitute Mikhail Youzhny
76 67 64 in the fifth ï¿½deadï¿½ rubber to reduce Argentinaï¿½s
final deficit to 3-2.
Twenty-year-old Nalbandian, the hero of Argentinaï¿½s historic
doubles victory on Saturday, was brought in as a late replacement
for Gaston Gaudio, who was forced to pull out of the tie or
risk further damage to a left leg injury.
The Argentine continued where he left off the previous evening,
taking advantage of three Safin errors to break serve in the
third game and build an early 3-1 lead. The Russian produced
a winning forehand return to level at 3-3, and the match progressed
into a tiebreak, where Safin won four of the first five points
and went on to draw first blood 7-3.
When Nalbandian dropped serve to trail 2-1 in the second
set, the crowd started to anticipate a comfortable victory,
and when Safin produced four aces to lead 4-2, the celebrating
At this point the Safin of old returned. For the next three
games, forehands and backhands were sprayed to the furthest
reaches of the court as Nalbandian fought back to lead 5-4.
Strong serving kept the Russian in the hunt and he held on
to force a second tiebreak. However a further three aces werenï¿½t
enough to compensate for further errors and the Argentine
levelled the match 7-5 with an audacious backhand dropshot
At the changeover Safin picked up a warning for racket abuse
and a more experienced opponent might have turned the screw.
Unfortunately Nalbandian made two forehand errors to trail
2-0 in the third set, and as the level of his own service
dropped, Safinï¿½s continued to improve. The Russian won eight
games in a row to take the third set 60 and lead 2-0 in the
And so to the final chapter of an absorbing tie. Having missed
a point to lead 3-0, Safin was broken twice to trail 3-2,
only for Nalbandian to drop his own delivery and allow the
Russian to level. Hitting more freely, Safin broke again to
lead 5-3 before a final game which summed up the whole match.
Three times Safin served an ace to reach match point, three
times an unforced error allowed his opponent to level at deuce.
Another service winner brought a fourth match point, and this
time a forehand drop volley winner sent the Russian supporters
Afterwards the Russian admitted that he was exhausted by
the efforts of the weekend. ï¿½We should have finished the tie
yesterday, but we couldnï¿½t find our game and luck wasnï¿½t with
us. Afterwards I felt I had no energy left. Today I was really
nervous and at one stage I didnï¿½t think I would be able to
finish the match. I am very happy to have won.ï¿½
A disappointed Nalbandian said: ï¿½I gave everything on court,
and kept trying to fight back, but it wasnï¿½t enough. Marat
played really well and won many points with his serve. I think
that was the main difference today.ï¿½
Despite the defeat, Argentine captain Alejandro Gattiker
was full of praise for his young squad. ï¿½We knew we had a
competitive team, but we lost against a great team. I am not
happy with the result, but I am happy with the way my players
reacted and played a great match on what is not our best surface.
We have a lot of young players in the worldï¿½s top 50, so our
Davis Cup future looks good.ï¿½
Russia now faces defending champion France in the Final,
and will be forced to play away for the first time this year.
Underplaying Russiaï¿½s chances, Safin said: ï¿½Itï¿½s going to
be really tough. The French team can play on any surface and
have many different players they can use. However we donï¿½t
have anything to lose, and if we are confident, who knows
what can happen.ï¿½
ï¿½In 2000 Yevgeny and I werenï¿½t playing well and we were defeated
by Spain. In 2001 I had a back injury when we lost to Sweden.
This year everything fits, so we must convert our chance.ï¿½