Produces Parisian Masterpiece
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.
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."