Safin finally breaks through

Tashkent title over countryman is top seed's first of year


TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP)

Marat Safin overwhelmed fellow Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-2, 6-2 to take the first all-Russian ATP final Sunday, winning the $550,000 President's Cup.

After Safin's victory, a moment of silence was held to honor victims of the terrorist attacks in the United States.

The win gave defending champion Safin, seeded No. 1, his first title this year and ninth of his career. Last week, Safin and Kafelnikov lost semifinal matches at the U.S. Open. That was the first time two Russians were in the final four of a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era.

"I'm happy to have won this tournament for the second time running," Safin said. "Kafelnikov should not be forgotten. He played great this week and today he was very tired. Forgive him."

Sunday's 56-minute final was decided in the third game of the first set, when Kafelnikov made an error and gave up his serve at 0-40. After the game, Kafelnikov sought medical attention for an injured finger on his right hand.

The second set started evenly but Kafelnikov quickly lost serve in the first game and Safin made a second breakpoint.

"This week left a psychological imprint on my life," Kafelnikov said. "It was impossible to watch the horrible scenes of the tragedy happening in the United States on television. I underwent deep psychological stress and it is a miracle that I reached the finals."

It was only the second meeting between the 21-year-old Safin and 27-year-old Kafelnikov. Kafelnikov won their 1999 encounter in Rome.

Safin was playing in Tashkent for the fourth year in a row. He is currently 14th in the Champions Race and seventh in the ATP Entry System. Kafelnikov, ranked sixth in the ATP Champions Race, was seeking his 24th career title and a second one this year after winning in Marseille.

At the U.S. Open, Safin lost to Pete Sampras of the United States, a runner-up to Safin in last year's U.S. Open. Kafelnikov was eliminated by eventual champion Lleyton Hewitt of Australia.

After Safin's victory, the Yunusabad tennis complex in Uzbekistan's capital held a moment of silence to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks in the United States. The stands were filled to their 3,000-seat capacity for Sunday's final.