Safin Storms into BNP Paribas Masters Final

11.02.2002 Paris, France

Playing the type of hard-hitting, aggressive style that has won him two Tennis Masters Series Shields and a US Open title, Marat Safin advanced to the final of the BNP Paribas Masters on Saturday with a win over Carlos Moya.

Safin, who has yet to win a title this year, took advantage of a loose service game by Moya in the 12th game to take the first set and then pulled away in the second set tiebreak with several service winners and one final passing shot. His 7-5, 7-6(4) victory puts him in Sunday�s final against the winner of the second semifinal between Paradorn Srichaphan and Lleyton Hewitt.

The one hour and 37 minute encounter that saw both players display their best game.

A first set filled with thrills as both players got slowly into the match testing each other's strategies. Marat Safin on one hand had the upper hand with three break opportunities and seven aces while Carlos Moya's determination helped him put the pressure on the Russian.

But Safin's calm, precision and amazing footwork at the net granted him the first set with a break at 6-5 and a drop volley after 45 minutes of play in front of a packed Palais Omisport in Bercy.

Safin dominated the second and final set from beginning to end with a perfect and graceful game that combined passing shots, volleys and serves that averaged 200km/h forcing Moya to work hard to hold serve.

Nevertheless, Moya never let go forcing Safin to play a tie break before celebrating. The tiebreak that was a deja vu sensation for both players where nerves of steel were needed to put up with the pressure. Safin was flawless but the Spaniard produced crucial mistakes that cost him the match losing the tiebreak 7-4 after Safin arrowed a forehand down the line for victory.

If Safin�s consistency has at times been questioned in the past, there is no doubt he has found his form this week in Paris. After defeating the attacking Frenchman, Nicolas Escude, in the quarterfinals, Safin stopped the sensational run of Carlos Moya, who was playing perhaps the best tennis of anyone at the Palais Omnisports.

"Now I'm playing and I'm doing the things in the right moment and right way. And everything is just going inside the court. That makes the difference, you know, to play important points down the line or just go to the net and not be afraid," said the Russian after advancing to his third Paris final.

Moya had expended much of his mental energy in earlier rounds, playing in two consecutive must-win matches in order to guarantee a berth to the year-end Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai. Still, the Spaniard fought valiantly, even fighting off a match point on his serve at 5-6 to force a tiebreak.

"Looking back at this week, it was excellent. I came here, I was out of the Masters Cup. I'm leaving here, and I'm in. So that's good," said the Spaniard about the week.

"Also, I played my best tennis. Especially against Agassi. That match was great. So it's been a great experience this week," Moya continued.

But Safin, who had already qualified for Shanghai with his second round win on Wednesday, played consistent tennis throughout the late stages of the match.

Safin returns to a Masters Series final for the second time this year after losing to Roger Federer at TMS Hamburg in May. And after winning this event in 2000, Safin will also be looking to become just the fourth man to win the BNP Paribas Masters at least twice following Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Boris Becker.

Moya will now have 10 days to rest and prepare for the Tennis Masters Cup. He reached the final of the year-end ATP World Championship in 1998, losing to countryman Alex Corretja. Playing some of the best tennis of his life, the former World No. 1 has also gained a tremendous amount of confidence in his indoor game with his three wins here Paris this week.