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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Safin books final place
Marat Safin, who beat David Nalbandian in the Davis Cup
Safin's serve proved the key
Russia 3-2 Argentina

Russia's Marat Safin sent his country into the Davis Cup final by beating David Nalbandian of Argentina and giving his team an unassailable lead.

Safin won a tough duel with the Wimbledon finalist by 7-6 6-7 6-0 6-3 in the first reverse singles of the final day.

The Argentina team salvaged some pride by winning the final tie, Juan Ignacio Chela defeating Mikhail Youzhny 7-6 6-7 6-4, with the overall match score at 3-2 to the Russians.

Russia will now face France in the final after they beat the USA in the other semi-final in Paris.

Argentine captain Alejandro Gattiger gambled by replacing his number one player Gaston Gaudio with Nalbandian.


I was very nervous before the match because I wasn't even sure how I would recover from yesterday
Marat Safin

After battling each other for nearly two hours and splitting the first two tie-breakers, Safin, using his powerful serve and return, broke Nalbandian three times to wrap-up the third set 6-0 in just 28 minutes.

In the fourth, the former US Open champion forced a decisive break in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead, then held serve to clinch the match and the tie on his fourth opportunity.

The victory put Russia into the final for the third time in eight years.

Nalbandian and Lukas Arnold had brought Argentina back into the tie by outlasting Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the longest doubles match in Davis Cup history - six hours and 20 minutes.

Safin and Kafelnikov had given Russia a 2-0 lead by winning Friday's singles.

"To be honest, I didn't expect to play Nalbandian, especially as I have a losing 2-1 record against Gaston and he beat me the last time we played in Hamburg last year," said Safin.

"But maybe after Nalbandian reached the Wimbledon final they thought he was a better player on a faster surface and would have had a better chance against me.

"I was very nervous before the match because I wasn't even sure how I would recover from yesterday.

"But I had a massage and took some vitamins to prevent myself from cramping and fortunately for me I was able to finish the match."

Nalbandian said: "He played very well. I tried my best but it was not good enough.

"We had a very long and difficult match yesterday but I never thought of giving up. I was fighting until the very end."


GB v Thailand

Semi-finals

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