Ferrero wins in Dubai as injured Safin quits

March 3, 2001

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (Ticker)

Marat Safin's best week of the season ended on a downer.

A back injury suffered on Friday forced the reigning U.S. Open champion to retire in the second set of Saturday's final against Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero at the $1 million Dubai Tennis Championships.

Safin hurt his back during his semifinal win over Sweden's Thomas Johansson on Friday, and said afterwards that he would not be 100 percent for the final. The injury obviously affected him as Ferrero raced to a 6-2, 3-1 lead before Safin decided he was unable to continue.

"I'm really sorry this happened to me," Safin said. "I definitely couldn't play 100 percent, not even half of what I could play. Of course if you cannot serve and volley, you just have to play from the baseline and hold your serve. If I served a little harder, it would have got worse."

"It was very difficult to play in these circumstances as the pain is serious, like someone has put a knife in there,'' Safin said.

Safin plans to go to Monaco for treatment. He said he will have his back checked at a hospital Monday.
"I'm scared about it as health is more important than money,'' he said.

"It was difficult to play when I knew he was injured, though if he was fit his serves would have been faster,'' Ferrero said.
"I played so good all week, I'm sorry for this final. If he's injured, I think it's better for him to stop."

Safin wasn't even close to his aggressive self in the final. He was broken in the opening game with a string of unforced errors. Ferrero broke in the seventh game to lead 5-2, then served out for the set.

Safin was taken to five deuces in first game of the second set. He was broken again in the third and then quit, down 0-15 in the fifth game.

A winner of an ATP-high seven titles last year, Safin struggled in the early part of 2001 before turning things around this week.

The 21-year-old Russian entered this event on a four-match losing streak, but strung four wins together to reach his first ATP final of the year. He is expected to hire former tennis great Mats Wilander as his coach in the near future.

Ferrero earned $167,000 for the title. Safin, trying to regain the No. 1 ranking from Gustavo Kuerten, won $88,000.

Ferrero, the seventh seed, also bounced back from a rocky start in 2001 and claimed his second career title and first on hard courts. He lost to Germany's Nicolas Kiefer in last year's final.

Like Safin, Ferrero came into this tournament mired in a losing streak, having lost his last three matches. But the 21-year-old eliminated second seed Magnus Norman of Sweden in the quarterfinals and saved three match points in his semifinal win over sixth seed Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia.

Ferrero won his first singles title at Mallorca, Spain on clay in 1999 and helped Spain to the Davis Cup title last December.