Tue, Oct 14, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Kunitsyn beats Safin to win Kremlin Cup

AFP , MOSCOW

Argentina’s David Nalbandian kisses the trophy after defeating Sweden’s Robin Soderling in the final of the Stockholm Open on Sunday. Nalbandian won 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.

PHOTO: AFP

Unseeded Igor Kunitsyn stunned Russian compatriot and former world No. 1 Marat Safin to win the Kremlin Cup on Sunday in a three-set marathon which gave the 71st-ranked player his first career title.

Safin, who was seeded seventh here, produced 21 aces, but all in vain as Kunitsyn won 7-6 (8/6), 6-7 (4/7), 6-3 in two hours, 49 minutes to deny his mercurial countryman a first title since winning the Australian Open in 2005.

“Everybody knows Marat [Safin] is better than me, but today I’m the winner,” Kunitsyn said. “It’s terrific to win my first title in front of my home fans and I hope I would be able to defend it here next year.”

Both Safin, who played his first final since losing the 2006 Kremlin Cup final to Nikolay Davydenko, and Kunitsyn, who was playing his first final, kept their serves throughout the first set.

In a tiebreak that followed Kunitsyn was more accurate to gain a one-set lead in one hour six minutes.

Kunitsyn broke midway through the second set but Safin broke back immediately to level, forcing another tiebreak, which he won to level at one set all after two hours five minutes.

In the deciding set, Kunitsyn broke in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead, which he kept to clinch his first ATP title.

Kunitsyn received US$171,000, while Safin earned US$92,400.

STOCKHOLM OPEN

AP, STOCKHOLM

Top-seeded David Nalbandian capped a near perfect week with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 win over local favorite Robin Soderling to win the Stockholm Open final on Sunday.

The seventh-ranked Argentine lost just one set — the second set of the final — in five matches on the Royal Tennis Hall’s hardcourts.

“It was great,” Nalbandian said. “The conditions are perfect to play indoors. It could be faster or slower. I adapt my game to play here and I really like it.”

This was his second win of the season and his ninth career victory. It was also the first singles victory by an Argentine in the 40-year history of the tournament.

Nalbandian won his first title of the year in Buenos Aires in February and lost the championship match in Acapulco the following week.

Both players held their serve in the third set until the seventh game, when Nalbandian broke to take a 4-3 lead on his fourth break point after the Swede netted a backhand.

Nalbandian then held to love to lead 5-3 and wrapped up the match with another break after the fourth-seeded Soderling double-faulted on match point.

“I was supposed to win in the second set when I was a break up, but he started playing better under the pressure,” Nalbandian said.

“The third set was very tight. When I got the break I think I had everything under control,” he said.

Soderling also lost the 2003 Stockholm final to Mardy Fish.

Nalbandian, who improved his head-to-head record against Soderling to 5-1, will next head to Spain to begin his defense of his Madrid Masters title.

“Madrid’s altitude is 4-500 meters I think and it will take a few days to adapt,” he said. “Of course it will be different, but I think I’m playing well now and I’ll try to win again. But my big goal is the Davis Cup final.”

Argentina hosts Spain indoors in Mar del Plata from Nov. 21 to Nov. 23 in the Davis Cup final.

Roger Federer withdrew from the Stockholm Open, leaving Nalbandian as the top-seeded player.

Defending champion Ivo Karlovic also skipped the event.

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