Safin beats Philippoussis for seventh title of year

Nov. 19, 2000 wire reports

PARIS -- Russian Marat Safin overcame a gashed right eyebrow and some fierce resistance from 13th-seeded Australian Mark Philippoussis to win Sunday's $2.95 million Paris Masters series final 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10-8).

It was the number two seed's second title in eight days. He also won the St Petersburg title last weekend.

Safin, 20, cut himself above the right eye when he hit himself with his own racket attempting a diving volley midway through the third set. He resumed after being treated by a doctor at courtside -- and promptly broke Philippoussis' serve to take the set.

He needed ice on the injury during changes of end to keep down the swelling but finally won in three hours, 28 minutes on his sixth match point despite being battered and bloodied.

Safin served 22 aces and Philippoussis 21.

The Russian edged ahead 6-3 in the decisive tiebreaker but he wasted five match points before a Philippoussis forehand error finally gave him the win.

"I was very lucky in the tiebreaker," Safin said. "Maybe one or two points made the difference."

The victory boosted Safin's ambitions of finishing the year as the world's top-ranked player, increasing his lead over Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten in the ATP Champions Race to 73 points.

Safin, the U.S. Open champion, won his seventh title of the year and became the only man this year to win two Masters Series events.

He was also victorious in Toronto. Safin won $434,000, and Philippoussis earned $228,000.

The Russian was beaten by Andre Agassi in last year's final of this event and won it in only his second appearance at the Bercy Sports Arena.

"Marat's played well all year and this is why he is number one in the world at the moment," Philippoussis said.

The Australian played sublime tennis in winning the first set in just 32 minutes. He had eight aces and his deep, grooved forehands immediately unsettled Safin, who hadn't dropped a set in reaching the final.

Philippoussis' ground strokes were so accurate and hard-hit, and his touch at the net so deft, that Safin was regularly forced onto the backfoot. One break of serve, in the second game, was enough to give Philippoussis the opener.

Safin was warned for hitting a ball into the crowd in the ninth game of the second set, which went on serve until the tiebreaker, which the Russian finally won 9-7 on his fourth set point.

It was the first tiebreaker Philippoussis had lost of the six he had played in the tournament. At 3-3 in the third, Safin cut himself after his racket head flew up and hit him.

The Russian fell to the ground and remained motionless for a few seconds. He resumed looking groggy after treatment, promptly breaking Philippoussis' serve for the first time in the match.

Safin took the set but Philippoussis roared back to take the fourth as the Russian wilted and became increasingly frustrated, several times throwing his racket to the ground in disgust.

The final set went with serve until the very end when Safin prevailed.