Fascinating final, especially in retrospect because it actually separated them on the top of men’s pyramid at the end of the season. They both were the best that year, but when they played the final Kuerten was only ranked 7 while Safin no. 14… Until 6:5 (30/0) on Kuerten’s second serve in the 5th set, Safin had been a nightmarish opponent for the Brazilian. The Russian had won all their three previous meetings, the first two in five-setters (trailing 1-2 in both), another match 7-6, 3-6, 7-6… and in Hamburg he came back from *3:5 (30-all) in the 2nd set, 2:3* (deuce) in the 4th, also from *1:3 in the decider. So it looked like a very tight rivalry when only one player had the key to edge the dramatic moments. Being two points away from defeat, Kuerten played successful dropshot, avoided a triple match point and it rewrote the script of their meetings (finished 4-3 Guga), winning another two dramatic matches against the four years younger Russian, one of them the same year in the United States. “He made it really hard for me,” Kuerten said after taking his second title of the year. # Later that year Safin plays similar final in Paris and that time he has more luck in the end.
# Comparison of Safin’s two five-set finals of 2000:
Hamburg ’00: Kuerten d. Safin 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6… 3 hours 52 minutes… Total points: 178-164… 2 points away
Paris ’00: Safin d. Philippoussis 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6… 3 hours 29 minutes… Total points: 153-165… 2 points away
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