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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safin defeats Corretja in Masters Cup

LISBON, Portugal - Russian world number one Marat Safin fought back from a set and 5-3 down to tame Spain's Alex Corretja 6-7, 7-5, 6-3 in the opening match of the $3.7 million ATP Masters Cup Tuesday.

The result ended Pete Sampras's hopes of finishing the year ranked number one for a seventh time.

Only Gustavo Kuerten can now prevent Safin from becoming the first non-American year-end number one since Swede Stefan Edberg in 1991.

Safin leads Brazil's Kuerten by 95 points and Sampras by 167. There are a maximum 150 points on offer for the champion.

Kuerten faces Andre Agassi in the green group in Tuesday's night match while Sampras plays Lleyton Hewitt in the other red group match.

Safin, the U.S. Open champion, overcame a painfully slow start in the Portuguese capital to beat 1998 champion Corretja.

He saved three set points in the opening set but netted a sliced backhand on the fourth to hand Corretja the set 8-6 in the tie-break after one hour four minutes of error-strewn action.

The Spaniard started the second set brightly, drilling groundstrokes deep into Safin's side of the court. He forced the Russian to save two break points in the opening game and two in the fifth game before Safin finally cracked, double-faulting for 2-3.

Corretja comfortably served for 4-2 and had Safin in trouble a game later. The 20-year-old Russian clung on, though, and held thanks to some brave hitting.

He showed the full extent of his courage when receiving serve three games later. Facing defeat he broke Corretja to love to level matters 5-5.

Warming to the task Safin took control of the set and squared the match one set all, winning the second 7-5 after two hours and a minute.

Rejuvenated, Safin came out for the third set all guns blazing and bludgeoned winners past Corretja who must have sensed he had blown his chance.

A thumped backhand return gave him the break for 2-0 as the momentum swung irresistibly Safin's way.

Four powerful serves later it was 3-0 and Corretja looked as though he could not wait to get off court.

He rallied briefly but there was no denying Safin and he wrapped matters up 6-3 after two hours 32 minutes.