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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safin Shows Character to Take Trophy

PARIS — Marat Safin, the man who can do no wrong at the moment, won his seventh title of the year Sunday and took another step toward ending the season as the world’s top-ranked player.

The Russian overcame a gashed right eyebrow that forced him to consider retiring — and some fierce resistance from 13th-seeded Australian Mark Philippoussis — to win the final of the $2.95 million Paris Masters Series tournament 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6.

It was the No. 2 seed’s second title in eight days. He also won the St. Petersburg title last weekend.

Safin suffered a cut above his right eye when he hit himself with the frame of his racket attempting a diving volley midway through the third set.

"When you see the blood, you get scared," he said. "But after two sets you don’t want to give it away. It was very close, but if it had kept bleeding, I would have had to stop the match."

Safin nonetheless resumed after being treated by a doctor at courtside — and promptly broke Philippoussis’ serve to take the set.

He needed ice on the injury during changes of end to keep down the swelling, but finally won in three hours, 28 minutes on his sixth match point despite being battered and bloodied.

"I think I’m playing great tennis, and I’ve won enough tournaments to prove it," Safin said.

The pair slugged it out for 3:17 before it came down to the tiebreaker. Safin served 22 aces and Philippoussis 21 as the pair traded power shots.

The Russian edged ahead 6-3 in the decisive tiebreaker, but he wasted five match points before a Philippoussis forehand error finally gave him the win.

"I was very lucky in the tiebreaker," Safin said. "Maybe one or two points made the difference. I was lucky he missed the last shot. His forehand was quite easy."

The victory saw Safin increase his lead over Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten in the ATP Champions Race to 73 points.

Safin, the U.S. Open champion, became the only player this year to win two Masters Series events. He was also victorious in Toronto.

Safin earned $434,000 for his triumph, while Philippoussis collected $228,000 for his week’s work.

"Marat’s played well all year and this is why he is No. 1 in the world at the moment," Philippoussis said.

The Australian played sublime tennis in winning the first set in just 32 minutes. He slammed down eight aces and his deep, grooved forehands immediately unsettled Safin, who had not dropped a set in reaching the final.

Philippoussis’ ground strokes were so accurate and hard-hit, and his touch at the net so deft, that Safin was regularly forced onto the back foot.

One break of serve, in the second game, was enough to give Philippoussis the opener.

Safin was warned for hitting a ball into the crowd in the ninth game of the second set, which went on serve until the tiebreaker, which the Russian finally won 9-7 on his fourth set point.

It was the first tiebreaker Philippoussis had lost of the six he had played in the tournament.

At 3-3 in the third, Safin cut himself.

He fell to the ground and remained motionless for a few seconds. He resumed looking groggy after treatment, promptly breaking Philippoussis’ serve for the first time in the match.

Safin took the set but Philippoussis roared back to take the fourth as the Russian wilted and became increasingly frustrated, several times throwing his racket to the ground in disgust.

The final set went with serve until the very end when Safin prevailed — as he has so often this year.

"He’s got so much confidence at the moment," Philippoussis said. "He’s hitting the ball so hard and he must feel like he can’t lose out there."