Safin Outlasts Spent Hewitt, Young Sets Junior Mark at Australian Open

Posted on January 31, 2005

Safin Ends Hewitt Dream Run in Australian Open Final

For one set Sunday in Melbourne it looked like Lleyton Hewitt could achieve the seemingly impossible.

The Aussie former No. 1, whose "Michael Chang Version 2.0" game sometimes thrives, and sometimes seems to barely stay afloat in the current era of huge serves and forehands, led Marat Safin 6-1 in the Australian Open final before the big Russian found his overpowering center, taking the final three sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

"The first set wasn't really tennis. I was thinking about those two finals that I played," Safin told Channel 7 Australia. "I tried to keep everything together and came back. After the first set I didn't believe that I could win. I was thinking that it's not going to happen today. It's difficult to believe."

Safin evened the match at one-set all, then Hewitt raced to a 4-1 lead in the third, whereupon Safin called for a medical timeout to receive treatment on his legs. Safin broke back, eventually taking the third set, whereupon it was Hewitt's turn to seek an injury timeout for his ongoing hip injury.

Safin, who won the final five games of the third set, extended it to seven in a row by taking a 2-0 lead in the fourth, eventually serving it out at 5-4 for only his second grand slam title after the 2000 US Open.

"Congratulations Lleyton, you had a brilliant two weeks," said Safin, who was not bothered by Hewitt's "C'mon!"s or hand puppet shows during the final, but extolled the Aussie's virtues during the trophy presentation. "You are such a great fighter and you have an amazing talent that God gave you to fight until the end."

The big Russian had previously lost Australian Open finals in 2002 to Thomas Johansson, and last year to Roger Federer, who he defeated earlier this week in the semifinals.

Hewitt will rise to No. 2 Monday when the ATP Rankings are released.

"My game's definitely better than where it was 18 months ago. You know what I mean?" Hewitt said. "You know, making a US Open final, a Masters Cup final, and now an Australian Open final, I'm obviously doing something right. But would have been nice to get one of them."

Australia did get a win in the mixed doubles final when the unseeded team of Scott Draper/Sam Stoser ousted No. 4 seeds Kevin Ullyett/Liezel Huber 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(6).

Lleyton Hewitt
says he will not compete again until the Davis Cup...Props to ESPN America who, even without an American in the championship match, showed the Australian Open final live in the U.S. after originally going with the tape-delay-only plan...Australian Open CEO Paul McNamee says he expects to have video replay for umpires by next year's event, with the US Open still on-line to debut the technology this year...American Donald Young, seeded No. 2 in the Aussie Open boy's singles, defeated top seed Kim Sun-Yong and at 15 years of age will become the youngest player to rank No. 1 on the ITF junior rankings...Mats Wilander describing Marat Safin to The Age while at the same time defending his guy-hood: "We are all frustrated at times, but most of us don't show it. And he shows it. And he's funny. He's very funny, even when he's not funny...I guess he's good-looking. I know it's hard for me to say because I'm a man. He's one of a kind and he's really as normal as anyone. It just comes out and he cares. He cares in life. That makes for an emotional person."...For the record, Fred Stolle, Jim Courier, Peter McNamara, Todd Woodbridge, and Pat Cash all picked Lleyton Hewitt to beat Marat Safin in the Aussie Open final. Not a punter's paradise coming out of Melbourne, eh?...Andre Agassi: "After we got back from the Australian Open, our children (son, Jaden Gil, 3, and daughter, Jaz Elle, 1) slept for 13 hours straight. It was divine intervention. Steffi and I finally checked on them to make sure they were still alive."