BEIJING -- Marat Safin won his first title in two years,
beating Mikhail Youzhny 7-6 (4), 7-5 Sunday in an all-Russian
final at the China Open.
"It's not the last one, hopefully," he said.
Safin, a former U.S. Open champion who has been struggling since
an injury-plagued 2003, advanced to No. 8 in the world and
increased his chances of qualifying for the Masters Cup. Only the top eight players reach the ATP's season-ending event in Houston.
Safin, seeded fifth, had been without a title since the 2002
Paris Indoors. However, he sailed through this tournament without losing
a set, cruising despite playing five matches in four days because of rain
He dropped his first service game and initially seemed puzzled
by his opponent's variety of shots. But after gaining a break point
at 3-4, Safin capitalized and was in command in the tiebreaker with
four thundering aces and five consecutive points.
Safin fell behind in his first service of the second set but
recovered to win the game. Youzhny's nerve inexplicably crumbled when the score was at 5-5 -- he lost serve with a double-fault. Safin, runner-up at the Australian Open and in Estoril this year, served out the match. He converted his first match point with another huge serve to win in 1 hour, 37 minutes.
"The way he was returning, I had to serve very well," Safin
said. "He had nothing to lose, and he's been playing incredible
He added: "It's going to take time to realize what happened -- that I
won a tournament -- you forget this feeling."
Youzhny, not seeded, defeated Rainer Schuettler, Dominik Hrbaty and Paradorn Srichaphan en route to the final of the inaugural $500,000 tournament.
"This week I played pretty good," he said. "I know now what I
can do to improve my game."
But he said "stupid mistakes" cost him against Safin.
"If I start to play more matches at this level and play in more
finals, maybe I don't have these mistakes," he said. " I was close ... but I prefer to play bad and win."
Safin earned $69,200 for his 12th career title. Youzhny got $40,700 for reaching his third final; the 22-year-old was bidding for his second career title.
"It's not like party time now," Safin said. "I hope I can get to the
Masters Cup and keep winning. You need to build your
Justin Gimelstob and Graydon Oliver won the doubles title,
defeating fellow Americans Alex Bogomolov Jr. and Taylor Dent 4-6,
6-4, 7-6 (6).
Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.