Super 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, 7-6(8).

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.

courtesy Masters Series - Paris - Official site