WASHINGTON -- Marat Safin was at his umpire-berating,
racket-spiking, error-spraying worst Saturday, and Arnaud Clement
took full advantage.
Happy to be on hard courts, Clement came back from a deficit in
each set to beat Safin 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) and reach the final in the
Legg Mason Tennis Classic.
It was a second consecutive victory over a past U.S. Open
champion for the 11th-seeded Frenchman, who upset Lleyton Hewitt in
Clement's opponent in Sunday's final will be No. 8 Andy Murray
of Britain, who won the last five games to eliminate No. 7 Dmitry
Tursunov of Russia 6-2, 7-5. Clement and Murray each will be
seeking a second title of the season.
Murray -- at his first tournament with coach Brad Gilbert -- had a
five-game run in the first set, too, and was broken only once
"If I play like I did tonight, I've got a good chance of
winning" the title, said Murray, who limited his unforced errors
to 17, while Tursunov had 36.
Safin finished with 40 unforced errors -- 18 more than Clement.
Sometimes, Clement said, "against Marat, you have no chance: He
can break, he can serve, he can do everything. But sometimes, and I
know it, he can make a few mistakes in a row, and I know I just
have to be focused."
As often happens with Safin, he appeared distracted at times,
including an argument with chair umpire Jake Garner about whether
the Russian took too long to decide whether to challenge a call
midway through the first set.
"His job is not to interrupt our game by making some decisions
and some comments," Safin said later. "He should just do his
Safin received a warning for smacking a ball in anger after
dropping a point in the second set, and he later reared back and
cracked his racket on the court after missing a forehand.
"It's just kind of disappointing for me, this kind of match
that slipped away," said Safin, who led 3-1 in the first set and
4-2 in the second. "I had my chances. I should have won in two
sets, 6-3, 6-4."
He put some blame on playing in the afternoon, instead of at
night, when his first four matches here were held. Safin said he
got used to a routine of practicing in the morning, sleeping during
the day, then playing under the lights.
Clement's lone title of 2006 came on hard courts in February at
Marseille, France, when he beat French Open champion Rafael Nadal
along the way. But Clement went 5-9 after that before reeling off
four wins in a row at this tuneup for the U.S. Open, which starts
He's had success on hard courts in the past, reaching the final
of the 2001 Australian Open.
"My game is better on hard courts, when it's faster," said
Clement, who beat Murray at last year's U.S. Open in five sets,
their only previous meeting.
Safin won the 2000 U.S. Open and the 2005 Australian Open, and
used to be No. 1. But a series of injuries, including a bad left
knee that kept him off the tour from last August until February,
dropped his ranking to 92nd.
Still, he looked good here in the early rounds, and had won five
tiebreakers in a row before faltering in both against Clement.
In the first, Safin went up 4-2, but eventually handed over
Clement's fourth set point by double-faulting, then bowed his head.
On the next point, Safin lunged for a forehand volley that hit the
net to end the set.
In the second, Safin put an easy backhand into the net to fall
behind 5-3, put a backhand return in the net on a 97 mph serve to
make it 6-4, then missed a backhand to end the match after 2 hours,
In the later semifinal, Tursunov saved two break points in the
opening game for a 1-0 lead, and then Murray took control, winning
eight of the next nine points to start the streak that carried him
to a 5-1 advantage.
Tursunov used three winners to break Murray for a 4-2 lead in
the second set, then held for 5-2. But he wouldn't win another
game, getting broken when he served for the set at 5-3 -- slipping
as he tried to get to a backhand passing winner on a 20-stroke
exchange on break point -- and again when Murray hit a backhand
winner to go up 6-5.
For Murray, a career-best 35th in the rankings, it was his 13th
victory in his last 16 matches. He won his first tour title on hard
courts at San Jose, Calif., in February, defeating Andy Roddick and
Hewitt en route.
"I'll be a little more relaxed this time," the 19-year-old
Scot said. "I have a bit more experience than I did then, and now
I know I can win a tournament."