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Saturday, 13 October, 2001, 17:56 GMT 18:56 UK
Ljubicic ousts Safin
Ivan Ljubicic
Ivan Ljubicic is in fine form in France
Ivan Ljubicic saved a matchpoint before upsetting Marat Safin, the last surviving seed in the Lyon Grand Prix, to reach his first final of the season.

It took three hours 47 minutes and three tiebreaks for the unseeded Croat to finish off the third-seeded Russian 6-7 7-6 7-6 in an extremely tight semi-final battle.

In a tense last set, Safin fought back from three games down to lead 6-5 in the third tiebreak of the match.

But Ljubicic saved his skin the same way he had throughout the match, at the net.


When you lose in the third tiebreaker, it's down to chance
Marat Safin

The Croat, who eliminated top seed Gustavo Kuerten in the first round, made the better start, forcing Safin to save a set point at 4-5 in the first set.

But the former US Open champion responded well and broke quickly in the tiebreak to win it 7-3.

The second set was almost a carbon copy of the first, but it turned Ljubicic's way as, after going 4-2 down in the tiebreak, he scored five straight points to level at one set all.

Stunned by the loss of the set, Safin was forced to fight an uphill battle from 1-4 down. He forced a third tiebreak but his calmer opponent finally prevailed.

The Russian led 6-5 but missed two easy backhands to hand victory to Ljubicic, who will meet Younes El Aynaoui in Sunday's final.

The Moroccan beat Xavier Malisse 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.

El Aynaoui took one-and-a-half hours to overcome his 21-year-old opponent.

The 30-year-old is seeking his third career title, and his second this year after winning in Bucharest last month.

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