Stefan Edberg edged Marat Safin 7-6(5), 2-6, 10-8 (Champions Tie-Breaker) Sunday to win the $120,000 The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman Legends Championships. The title was Edberg’s first career title on the Champions Series and earned the two-time Wimbledon champion a first-prize paycheck of $45,000.
“I felt good today,” said Edberg. “We ended up with a pretty good tiebreaker, so it was a good end to the match. I was the lucky one today. It’s always a point or two that makes a difference. I think he could have won easily.”
The match was the first meeting of any sort between the two former world No. 1 players. Edberg, 44, was able to stay slightly steadier than his 30-year-old opponent Sunday and capture the clay-court tournament title.
“I never played (Stefan), just watched him on TV, but I loved all his matches, of course, at Wimbledon, and I love the way he played,’ said Safin, the 2000 US Open champion. “He’s in great shape. He serves well and moves around pretty good. He’s good. He’s really good.”
Both players struggled with their serves in the windy conditions at the Caribbean island resort. In the first set, each player had their serves broken twice before Edberg was able to squeak out the first-set tiebreaker 7-5. Edberg took an early 2-0 lead in the second set before Safin streaked to win six games in a row to win the second set and force the champions tiebreaker, a first-to-10 point tie-breaker played in lieu of a third set. Both players remained within one point of each other for the first 15 points of the tiebreaker before Edberg moved to his first match point at 9-7. He clinched the title one point later, converting when Safin netted a backhand return off of an Edberg kick-serve out wide.
Edberg said he enjoyed the intensive nature of the winner-take-all champion’s tiebreaker, which is as exciting as a sprint to the finish line.
“It’s fun when you get into a championship tiebreaker, because you know you’ve got another five, 10 minutes and you can give everything you have; you know its going to be over,” said Edberg. “That’s the good part about tennis, when you feel that you’re getting towards the end you still have the chance to win. You can see the finish line. It’s not running a marathon but almost like you feel you’re getting towards the end and then it’s good if you can play some good points.”
Jim Courier, the event’s two-time defending champion, was awarded the third-place finish at the event Sunday when Jimmy Arias was unable to compete due to a pulled hamstring, suffered during his semifinal loss to Edberg on Saturday. Courier defeated Mikael Penfors 6-4, 6-3 Sunday in an exhibition match played before the Edberg-Safin singles final.
Mark Philippoussis, paced on tournament victories in Boston, Mass., and Surprise Ariz., finished 2010 as the No. 1 player in the Champions Series points standings with 2100 points. Courier finished in second place with 1700 points and John McEnroe finished in third place with 900 points.
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