Safin Defends Title in St. Petersburg

The Russian won his second title of the year.


Marat Safin successfully defended his St. Petersburg crown to win his second title of the year and remain in contention for a place in the Tennis Masters Cup in Sydney.

The third seeded Russian needed just under two hours to defeat Germany's Rainer Schuettler 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 and win his second consecutive St. Petersburg Open.

"It was very difficult today," said Safin, who also defended his title in Tashkent in September. "[On Saturday] I played six sets in singles and doubles. They were all very intense and I also hit my knee with my racquet, so it's a little bit sore."

Safin also came from a set behind to defeat fellow countryman Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the semifinals, and was struggling to find his best form at the start of the final against Schuettler.

"I lost so much energy on court yesterday," added Safin. "Today, I tried my best but I still could not run in the first set."

It was the Russian's big serve that helped get him out of trouble and gave him a huge confidence boost as he begins the defense of his Tennis Masters Series Paris shield next week and continues his bid for a Sydney berth.

"It's difficult," said Safin of his chances. "[Paris] is my last chance and it doesn't depend on me only, but also on the other players trying to qualify."

Whatever happens in Paris, Safin is pleased with the way he is playing after a year in which he was troubled by injuries. "It's good to finish the year like this," he said. "My goal for 2002 is to be No. 1."

Schuettler, playing in his third final in six weeks, couldn't quite maintain the form that had seen him defeat top seed Juan Carlos Ferrero, Daniel Vacek, Max Mirnyi and Michael Llodra earlier in the week.

"The reason why I lost is that Marat served much better in the second and third sets," said Schuettler. "This is my last tournament of the year. I'm happy with how it went, even if I'm disappointed about the result today."