Twice is nice

Safin looks to end the season on a high note


Defending champion Marat Safin of Russia took his second title this season after coming back from one set down to beat Rainer Schuettler of Germany 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in Sunday's final of the $800,000 St. Petersburg Open tennis tournament.

It was Safin's 10th career title. He captured his first title this season last month in Tashkent where he beat compatriot Yevgeny Kafelnikov in straight sets in the first all-Russian ATP final.

The 25-year-old Schuettler, who was playing in his third final this year, was broken in the opening game of the first set, but broke back in the next game. He broke third-seeded Safin again in the fourth game and jumped to a comfortable 4-1 lead. Safin broke his racket in anger after the loss.

Schuettler saved two breakpoints in the ninth game to take the set.

"Yesterday I played six sets and I was dead today on the court," said Safin, who reached the doubles finals as well. He was wearing a brace on his knee and was visibly tired.

But Safin had no intention of giving up. He needed one break in the second game of the second set to win it and stay in the match.

In the decisive third set, Safin got the first break in the third game and then again in the ninth to win the set, the match and the tournament.

Schuettler won a tournament in Shanghai in mid-September and was runner-up to Marcelo Rios in Hong Kong. On his way to the St. Petersburg final, Schuettler upset top-seed Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain in the first round.

Safin upset second-seeded Kafelnikov in the semifinals Saturday and beat fifth-seeded Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia in the quarterfinals.

Safin is 11th on the ATP Champions Race and the victory will improve his chances of qualifying for the Tennis Masters Cup in Sydney in November if he performs strongly at the tournament in Paris next week.

"Of course I have to win there (in Paris), but how far the other players advance will determine that," Safin said. "It's really difficult. I probably have no chance to go to Sydney because it's not just up to me."

In the doubles final, Russians Denis Golovanov and Kafelnikov defeated Irakli Labadze of Georgia and Safin, 7-5, 6-4.