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Sunday, 3 November, 2002, 16:31 GMT
Safin humbles Hewitt
World number three Marat Safin
Safin claimed his first title of the year in Paris
Marat Safin bt Lleyton Hewitt 7-6 6-0 6-4

Marat Safin gave one of the most impressive performances by any player this year on his way to a crushing victory over Lleyton Hewitt at the Paris Masters.

The Russian claimed his first title of the year at the final event of the ATP regular season.


In the second set I was playing perfect tennis, I couldn't miss
Marat Safin
But the manner of victory will have made it worth the wait as Safin gave Hewitt one of the most comprehensive beatings of his career.

And Safin's dominance was never greater than in the second set, when Hewitt failed to pick up a single game.

"I served very well, which is so important against Lleyton," said Safin, winner in Paris two years ago.

"In the second set I was playing perfect tennis, I couldn't miss."

Hewitt admitted there was little he could do to stop the Russian.

"He played a magnificent match," said Hewitt.

"He has been just too good for everybody in the draw this week and I've just got to take my hat off to him.

"I had a few chances to get back into the match but when you give Marat a start, he's very tough to peg back."

World number one Lleyton Hewitt
Hewitt could find no answer to Safin's inspired play

The match featured the two players who had headed the rankings for most of the year, before a late slump saw Safin slip to third behind Andre Agassi.

Throughout the week, though, Safin had played with a poise and confidence that he usually struggles to maintain for a whole tournament.

And when the opening set came down to a tie-break unusually it was Hewitt who faltered, missing with two forehands as Safin pressed.

If the first set was tight, the second was a demonstration by Safin.

Huge serves and unnerring accuracy from the baseline, especially on the backhand, meant Hewitt could not impose himself on the rallies.

The Parisian crowd sat stunned into near silence as Safin blasted his way to an awesome love set.

And despite Hewitt's expected refusal to give up the ghost in the third set, Safin made the vital break in game five.

Rarely can Hewitt have looked so downbeat on court and Safin served out for the biggest win of his year, and a huge boost ahead of the Masters Cup later this month.

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BBC Five Live's Iain Carter
"Safin was playing a tactically astute game"
All the tennis action taking place this week

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