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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safin Fights His Way to No. 1 Chance

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LISBON, Portugal — Marat Safin, seeking to become the youngest player ever to finish the year as No. 1, fought back from the brink of defeat to outlast Alex Corretja 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-3 in the opening match Tuesday of the Masters Cup.

One game away from defeat, Safin turned the match by breaking Corretja’s serve and winning the second set. He then cruised through the third to score his first victory in the elite tournament.

Russia’s 20-year-old Safin leads the Champions Race that will produce the new No. 1 after winning seven titles this year, including the U.S. Open, his first Grand Slam.

Corretja, who won the season-ending tournament in 1998, served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. But he dropped his serve at love when Safin forced him into an error with a huge forehand to the corner.

Safin broke serve for a 2-0 lead in the third and never looked behind again.

The big-hitting Russian could have made it a much shorter affair had he used his opportunities in the first set.

Corretja saved a set point on his serve with Safin leading 5-3. Safin then served for the set but a brilliant passing shot down the line gave Corretja double break point. Another forehand passing shot that landed low forced Safin to net his next shot and Corretja tied the score.

In the next game, the Spaniard survived three break points as the inconsistent Safin mixed brilliant winners with sloppy mistakes. In the tiebreaker, Safin fought off two set points before netting an approach volley.

Safin fell behind a break of serve in the second and appeared doomed with Corretja serving for the match. But Safin broke serve with another tremendous forehand winner to the corner that gave him the second set.

Up a break of serve in the third, Safin did not allow this chance to slip away. He won it on his first match point, when Corretja’s forehand sailed long.

Safin entered the tournament leading Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten by 75 points in the race for the new No. 1. An appearance in the final of the $3.7 million event will secure the No. 1 spot for Safin.