Safin crowned Paris champion
Marat Safin went from being last year's finalist to this year's
champion at Tennis Masters Series Paris after winning a marathon
five-set battle with Mark Philippoussis 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-4, 3-6,
The Russian needed six matchpoints, three and half hours and
the attention of the tournament doctor to complete the victory
though. Mid-way through the third, Safin was hit in the eye
by his racket and sustained a bloody cut to his head. Bandaged
but unbowed, he carried on for another three hours before snatching
victory in a last gasp tiebreaker.
In a packed Palais Omnisport Paris-Bercy, the atmosphere reached
fever pitch as the contest drama unfolded. If Philippoussis
came in to the match as underdog he didn't show it, taking the
first set with a solitary break of serve. The second set was
tighter still, with neither man willing to concede points on
serve, but it was Safin who proved the more aggressive in the
tiebreaker. Having leveled the match, the Champions Race leader
marched into a 2-1 lead, and for a while Philippoussis looked
to be tiring. But the tall man from Melbourne showed his mettle
by breaking the Safin serve to once more level the match.
In an impossibly close fifth set, neither man lost a point off
a first serve until the tiebreaker, a testament to the high
standard of tennis played by both. The climatic last few minutes
of the match made this final one of the most exciting seen in
the Masters Series this year. Four times Safin edged ahead in
the breaker, only to falter in the final shot, before at last
an Philippoussis error saw him raise his arms in triumph.
The Russian was quick to praise the tournament, the crowd and
the bravery of his opponent in his victory speech, before touchingly
wishing everyone an enjoyable Christmas!
Philippoussis was gracious in defeat, praising those who made
the event possible, and saying, "I'd like to thank Marat. He
deserved to win, he's been playing great all year and he deserves
to be No.1 in the world."
This is Safin's second career Masters Series title, and the
second this year after he took Tennis Masters Series Toronto
in August. He has also reached two further Masters Series finals
- here in Paris last year and Hamburg in April 2000.
Series - Paris - Official site