Sweeps Grosjean To Even Davis Cup Final 2-2
December 01, 2002
By Richard Pagliaro
Marat Safin carried a country's hopes for its first Davis Cup
championship on his shoulders when he stepped onto the red clay
court at the Palais Omnisports in Paris today. And in the end,
that responsibility to win for Russia is what helped carry Safin
Playing with poise under the pressure of potential elimination,
Safin swept Sebastien Grosjean 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (13-11) in the
first of today's reverse singles matches to even the Davis
Cup tie between Russia and defending-champion France, 2-2.
"I was praying to finish in three sets," said Safin,
who was playing his third match in three days. "Just
when was everything finished, I was so happy. I didn't have
to go to the fourth set because you never know how it can
finish. He started to play well. Also, my physical condition,
I was getting tired already. I wanted to finish in three sets.
I was lucky that I could make it."
Safin's victory set the stage for a fifth and decisive match
between France's Paul-Henri Mathieu and 32nd-ranked Russian
Mikhail Youzhny, who was named as a late replacement for veteran
Former French Open champion Kafelnikov, who has surgery scheduled
for tomorrow to repair a vein in his leg, has performed poorly
in suffering a straight-set loss to Grosjean in Friday's singles
match. Kafelnikov partnered with Safin in yesterday's four-set
doubles defeat to the French team of Nicolas Escude and Fabrice
"We decided to put Mikhail because Yevgeny was tired
after the doubles," Safin said. "He couldn't play
today, so we decided to put the young player (to play the
match). Why not? We'll see if he can manage to win, at least
show great tennis."
Despite Kafelnikov's recent struggles on clay, the decision
to start Youzhny is a bit of a risk by Russian captain Shamil
Tarpischev. Today's decisive match marks Youzhny's debut in
a live Davis Cup match. Mathieu is not exactly a Davis Cup
veteran either: he made his Davis Cup debut in Friday's singles
setback to Safin.
The former top-ranked Safin dominated Grosjean in their previous
Parisian meeting on red clay at Roland Garros last spring.
The Russian recalled the tactics he used in that match as
a factor in today's triumph.
"Last time we played in Roland Garros, I won. I just
understood how I have to play against him," Safin said.
"It also gave me some kind of confidence that I can beat
him. Already I knew from the beginning what I have to do,
when I have to do. I was also a little bit lucky at some point
of the match."
The gritty Grosjean refused to give up and made a late charge
in the third set, but ultimately lacked the weapons to stop
"It's true that in the third set I had many opportunities,"
Grosjean said. "But even in the third set, he played
at a very high level. I was able to maintain the lead. I really
wanted to win this third set to see what he was going to do
in the fourth set, but I believe he played a very great match.
He was impressive with everything: service, returns, from
the baseline, he was hitting off both sides. When he plays
like that, he's very difficult to beat."