Safin Produces Parisian Masterpiece

11.03.2002 Paris, France

Marat Safin joined some elite company on Sunday, giving a virtuoso performance at the BNP Paribas Masters to defeat World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets. It was the second TMS Paris title for Safin, who won this event in 2000, as he joined Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Boris Becker as the only players to have won this event more than once.

Hewitt, meanwhile, will be content in knowing that he had his best showing ever at the BNP Paribas Masters while increasing his Champions Race lead over Andre Agassi in the quest to finish as the year-end World No. 1.

Entering the week, Safin had not held up a tournament trophy since the St. Petersburg Open thirteen months ago. But Safin made sure he did not finish 2002 without a title, as he tore through the draw at the Palais Omnisport. Safin lost just one set throughout the tournament and was never in trouble against Hewitt in Sunday's final, winning 7-6(4), 6-0, 6-4.

"I really thought I wasn't going to win a tournament this year," said Safin after the match. "To come here and win Paris, Bercy, it's wonderful. And the fact that it's a Masters Series [tournament], makes it even better."

After a tight first set, Safin cruised through the second with his hard-serving, hard-hitting game. He broke Hewitt again at 3-all in the third and served out the match at 5-4 after squandering triple match point in the previous game on Hewitt's serve.

"After that tiebreak, I think the second set was just perfect for me," said Safin, who now has three Tennis Masters Series titles. "I was up 1-0 and he almost broke back but I went up 2-0 and everything just start from there. I was hitting the ball well. I served really well."

"For me, it was, you know, a big thrill to get through to the final," said Hewitt. "I lost to the best player, you know, in the tournament. You know, Marat was too good today. He's been too good for everyone throughout the week. I felt like I had chances out there, especially in the first set. I felt like I just hit a bit of a wall after that."