Safin finally breaks through
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
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
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.