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Sunday, 1 December, 2002, 15:20 GMT
Safin sets up grand finale
Sebastien Grosjean stretches to return a shot from Marat Safin
Grosjean had no answer to Safin's power
M Safin bt S Grosjean 6-3 6-2 7-6 (13/11)
(Davis Cup final level at 2-2)

Marat Safin powered to a straight-sets victory over Sebastien Grosjean to leave the Davis Cup final between Russia and France on a knife-edge.

Safin's 6-3 6-2 7-6 win levelled the tie at 2-2, setting up a winner-takes-all clash between Mikhail Youzhny and Paul-Henri Mathieu in the final rubber.

Knowing he had to triumph to stop France retaining the Cup, Safin defied the pressure and the partisan crowd in Paris.


I love playing in Paris - there is a fantastic atmosphere
Marat Safin

While Grosjean had the luxury of a day's rest under his belt, the Russian came into the match on the back of a gruelling five-set defeat in the doubles on Saturday.

But Safin, who beat Mathieu in the opening rubber on Friday, broke the Frenchman in the very first game to set the tone for a dominant display.

He gave Grosjean no chance as he reeled off a string of powerful service games, and broke again at 5-3 to take the first set.

The players exchanged breaks in games four and five of the second set, but Safin claimed the Grosjean serve twice more to close it out 6-2.

Grosjean gave himself a ray of hope by twice going a break up in the third, only to surrender his advantage immediately.

Safin was two points away from victory at 6-5 on the Grosjean serve but the Frenchman held his nerve to force a tense tie-break.

Marat Safin hits a backhand against Sebastien Grosjean
Safin stood firm in the third-set tie-break

Safin saved three set points before bringing up match point with a stunning volley, only for Grosjean to save it with a serve and volley.

Both players again had chances to seal it, but Safin stood firm to close it out 13-11 and set up a dramatic finale.

Safin admitted that he was exhausted after playing three tough matches over the three days.

"Of course I feel tired but I didn't really have any option (but to play)," he said.

"It was a great match. I love playing in Paris, there is a fantastic atmosphere," added Safin, who won the Paris Masters in the same stadium earlier this month.

Grosjean praised his opponent's ability to withstand the pressure, especially in the latter stages of the match.

"I had some chances in the third set tiebreak - but he didn't crack up at all," said the Frenchman.


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