Safin wins St. Petersburg Open

November 12, 2000 ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP)

Marat Safin, again venting his temper on the court, smashed his racket and injured his hand Sunday but beat Dominik Hrbaty to win the $800,000 St. Petersburg Open.

The top-seeded Russian recovered from a listless first set to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 for his first pro title in his home country. Safin has won six tournaments this season.

Safin, the U.S. Open champ, has overtaken Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten for the No. 1 spot in the Champions Race. Kuerten lost on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Lyon Grand Prix in France.

There was nothing listless about Safin in the second set. Down 40-15 in the first game, he banged his racket on the court, drawing a warning from the umpire.

A splinter from the racket apparently lodged in his hand, prompting a three-minute injury timeout. Safin apologized to Hrbaty for the delay.

``I was just nervous and angry,'' said Safin, who has a penchant for smashing rackets. ``But breaking rackets sometimes helps to get rid of negative energy. It helps you calm down.''

The outburst seemed to help. Safin was broken in the fourth game of the second set but then took control, breaking back and winning the sixth game at love. He broke the third-seeded Slovakian again in the seventh and held serve to win the set.

``In the second set, he seemed to relax and got me out of rhythm with his shots,'' Hrbaty said. ``He started hitting the ball so hard that I lost my timing. I just couldn't keep the ball in front of me.''

Safin kept to the baseline in the third set. He broke Hrbaty in the third game, then comfortably served out the match. He had 14 aces to Hrbaty's five.