EDBERG EDGES SAFIN TO WIN CHAMPIONS SERIES TITLE IN GRAND CAYMAN
GRAND CAYMAN, November 7 – 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, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over, 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. The careers of the two tennis legends did not overlap on the ATP World Tour as Edberg’s final year of competitive ATP tennis came in 1996, two years before Safin’s first break-out year. 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 U.S. 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 tie-breaker 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 tie-breaker, 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 tie-breaker 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 tie-breaker, 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 it’s 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.
The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Legends Championships is a third-year event on the Champions Series. To be eligible to compete on the Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. Courier finished the 2009 season as the top-ranked player on the Champions Series, followed by Pete Sampras and Todd Martin. Courier won the 2009 edition of The Residences At the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Legends Championships beating Arias in the final. Courier beat Wayne Ferreira in the final of the event in 2008.
Earlier this year on the Champions Series circuit, Philippoussis, a former U.S. and Wimbledon finalist, defeated McEnroe in May to win the Staples Champions Cup in Boston. Philippoussis also won the title at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships in Surprise, Ariz., in October, defeating Courier in the final. Former French Open semifinalist Fernando Meligeni of Brazil was the surprise winner of the opening event on the 2010 Champions Series, winning the title in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil by defeating Philippoussis in the final in March.
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