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Safin & Kunitsyn To Clash In All-Russian Final

Moscow, Russia

Igor Kunitsyn© Getty ImagesIgor Kunitsyn In Action

Igor Kunitsyn (pictured) ensured there would be a Russian champion at the ATP Kremlin Cup for the 13th time in the tournament’s 19-year history.

The Vladivostok native defeated 35-year-old Frenchman Fabrice Santoro 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday in Moscow to set up an all-Russian final with seventh seed Marat Safin, who received a walkover into the title match as Mischa Zverev withdrew ill.

The 27-year-old Kunitsyn converted six of 15 break points in the 1 hr., 31 min., encounter and dropped only seven points behind his first serve to reach his maiden ATP singles final. He will look to become the 10th first-time ATP winner this season.

Safin has won all three of their previous encounters, including twice on hard courts at 2006 Washington and 2007 Las Vegas.

Kunitsyn is enjoying a career-high South African Airways ATP Ranking of No. 71, up from No. 127 at the start of the season. He has compiled a 14-13 match record (9-8 on hard court) this season, highlighted by semifinal exits at Poertschach (l. to Davydenko) and Washington (l. to Troicki) and quarterfinal appearances at Delray Beach (l. to Blake) and Newport (l. to Dancevic).

The right-hander has fallen twice at the semifinal stage in Moscow in 2005 (l. to Kiefer) and ’06 (l. to Safin) and has a 13-6 event record. He has dropped just one set in four completed matches en route to the final.

Former World No. 1 Safin, who claimed his 400th ATP victory with his first round win over Noam Okun, is through to his 27th ATP final and has a 15-11 record. His last appearance in a final came at 2006 Moscow, when he fell to Nikolay Davydenko. The Moscow native is chasing his first title since the 2005 Australian Open (d. Hewitt).

The 28-year-old Safin, currently No. 40 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, has a 23-21 (8-11 on hard court) match record this season, highlighted by reaching his first Wimbledon semifinal (d. No. 3 Djokovic, No. 9 Wawrinka; l. to No. 1 Federer) and quarterfinal exits at Munich (l. to Gonzalez) and Los Angeles (l. to Gremelmayr); he did not win consecutive matches in the first four months of the season.

 

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