Kunitsyn Edges Safin For First Career Trophy
by ATP Staff|
Igor Kunitsyn (pictured) snapped a three-match losing streak against Russian compatriot Marat Safin, the No. 7 seed and 2006 runner-up, with a 7-6(6), 6-7(4), 6-3 victory in the ATP Kremlin Cup final on Sunday. The 27 year old becomes the 10th first-time ATP titlist this year and the 13th home-grown champion at the Moscow event.
"Winning the title feels unreal," said Kunitsyn. "Playing in front of a home crowd in an all-Russian final, against one of my best buddies Marat and one of my favorite players was amazing. It was amazing to be in the final and it really is a dream come true. I wasn't expecting it."
The 28-year-old Safin squandered two break points in the opening game, while Kunitsyn was unable to convert two break points in the eighth game of the first. In a tense tie-break, Safin saved one set point at 5-6 but Kunitsyn closed out the opener in 69 minutes.
Midway through the second set the pair exchanged breaks of serve and battled through to a second tie-break, which Safin clinched on his third set point.
Kunitsyn broke the Safin serve for a 4-2 lead in the third set and held his nerve to close out the match for victory in two hours and 43 minutes. He hit seven aces and won 76 of 110 service points. While Safin hit 21 aces, the former World No. 1 – currently No. 40 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings – could only convert one of six break point opportunities and won 34 of 110 points on return of serve.
"I thought I'd give Marat some trouble, because I knew I was playing well against Fabrice [Santoro] on Saturday," said Kunitsyn. "To beat him in the final; sounds crazy.
"I think I was serving way better than I did before. I came to the final with good wins and was hitting the ball well. I have played every day since Wednesday. My only concern was my physical condition. Fabrice made me run a lot [in the semifinals]. I did well; I fought for every ball and took the opportunities that Marat gave me."
Vladivostok native Kunitsyn improved to 15-13 on the season (10-8 on hard courts). Earlier this season World No. 71 Kunitsyn made semifinal exits at Poertschach (l. to Davydenko) and Washington (l. to Troicki).
The 28-year-old Safin was competing at his home-town tournament for the 11th time and dropped to a 16-11 mark. He finished runner-up in 2006 (l. to Davydenko) and made a quarterfinal exit in 2000 (l. to Prinosil) and 2002 (l. to Mathieu).
The Monte-Carlo resident dropped to 23-22 (8-12 on hard-court) on the season, which has been highlighted by a run to the Wimbledon semifinals (l. to Federer) and two quarterfinal exits at Munich (l. to Gonzalez) and Los Angeles (l. to Gremelmayr).
The right-handed Muscovite dropped to 15-12 in ATP finals. His last title came at the 2005 Australian Open (d. Hewitt).
Kunitsyn earned 250 South African Airways ATP Ranking points and $171,000 in prize money, while Safin collected 175 points and $92,400.