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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 January, 2005, 11:38 GMT
Safin fightback ends Hewitt dream
Marat Safin
Marat Safin fought back from a set down to win the Australian Open final and end Lleyton Hewitt's dream of winning his home Grand Slam title.

Safin made a dreadful start and quickly lost the first set as he made 13 unforced errors to Hewitt's one.

The Russian levelled but was in trouble at 4-1 down in the third before reeling off seven magnificent games.

One break was enough in the fourth and Safin served out confidently for a stunning 1-6 6-3 6-4 6-4 win.

Hewitt had been aiming to become the first home player to win the Australian singles since Mark Edmondson in 1976.

In the tournament's centenary year, the Melbourne crowd was vociferous in its support of the Adelaide-born player.

I didn't feel like I played that badly out there, he was just too good
Lleyton Hewitt

And Hewitt gave them plenty to cheer with an almost faultless opening set as Safin appeared gripped by nerves, dropping his first and third service games.

An early break in the second changed the momentum but Safin was still making too many errors.

The Russian wasted a break point in the opening game of the third set and Hewitt took advantage, despite being warned for unsportsmanlike conduct, in the following game.

After holding his temper in check for so long Safin smashed his first racket of the night, and that seemed to galvanise him.

SAFIN - HEWITT STATS
1st serve: 60% - 49%
Aces: 18 - 7
D/faults: 1 - 3
Winners: 54 - 33
B/points: 4/11 - 3/8
Match time: 2hrs 45mins

Finally he found the form that saw off Roger Federer in the semi-finals and managed to use his power to dominate Hewitt, especially on serve.

Seven straight games ripped the initiative away from the Australian.

Hewitt's best chance now seemed to be a trademark Safin breakdown but this time he remained calm, giving the home favourite no chance as he served out for victory.

In the third set it all turned around in a way I couldn't expect
Marat Safin

After twice being a runner-up in Melbourne, Safin adds the Australian title to the US Open crown he won in 2000, and Hewitt paid tribute in paticular to his win over Federer.

"I'd like to congratulate Marat on a hell of a tournament, you knocked off the guy who's been virtually impossible to beat so you definitely deserve it."

He added: "I didn't feel like I played that badly out there, he was just too good. I gave it everything I had."

Safin replied: "You are such a great fighter and you have an amazing talent that God gave you to fight until the end."


WATCH AND LISTEN
Highlights: Australian Open men's final


Interview: Marat Safin


Interview: Lleyton Hewitt




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