On November 19, 2000, world no. 2 and the US Open champion Marat Safin took upon Mark Philippoussis in the final of Paris Masters 1000 event, turning it into an epic battle that lasted for three and a half hours! The crowd in Bercy Sports Arena had the opportunity to witness the drama of the highest order, from thrilling points to blood on the court, as Safin suffered a cut above the right eye when he hit himself in an attempt to kick a diving volley in the middle of the third set.
In the end, the Russian prevailed 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(8) in what had been one of the finest Masters 1000 title matches. The 20-year-old from Moscow clinched his seventh ATP title of the season just a week after clinching St.
Petersburg, becoming the only player who won multiple Masters that season and the world no. 1 on the following day as the youngest player to secure that spot since the beginning of the rankings in 1973! Marat and Mark played six matches between 1999-2005, with five of those coming in the Masters 1000 events.
Philippoussis won the opening duel in Indian Wells in 1999 but the Russian had the upper hand ever since, although he had to work hard to deliver this Paris triumph, knowing the fact that Mark won 13 points more than him and had much more break points.
Despite hitting nine double faults, the Aussie faced just two break chances in the entire match(!!), remarkable fact considering the length and importance of the encounter, unable to gain the advantage from it as he missed his chances, finishing the clash with a forehand unreturned error that crushed his dreams of winning the second Masters 1000 title.
They had the same number of aces (22) and Mark was a little bit better on both serve and return, despite giving Marat nine free points after double faults. Safin did a great job in the second set tie break otherwise he could have found himself two sets to love down, keeping his composure in the deciding tie break as well to convert the sixth match point and lift the trophy.
Philippoussis was off to a perfect start, scoring a break in game two when Safin sent an easy forehand long and closing the third game with another service winner to move 3-0 ahead. That was all he needed to bring the opener home in the ninth game after 32 minutes, keeping Marat away from break chances with good serving and excellent net coverage.
The Russian served at only 36% and was eager to get more from his first serve in set number two. Both players served well in the first eight games of the second set and the crucial moment came in game nine when Mark created three break opportunities.
With no room for errors, Safin fended them off to reach deuce, bringing the game home with a service winner to stay in contention. Mark didn't look back on this, serving well by the end of the set to reach a tie break. At 5-4 down, Philippoussis missed an easy volley to give his rival two set points, erasing both with great winners and leveling the score at 6-6.
A smash winner sent Marat in front again but it wasn't to be for him on the third set point as well, netting a routine backhand for more drama. A forehand down the line winner earned the fourth set point for the Russian who finally closed the set to level the overall score and find himself in a much better position ahead of set number three.
Servers dominated in the first six games of the third set and then we saw that injury for Marat when the racquet bounced from the surface to hit him in the head just above the right eye. It took the rhythm away from Mark, who didn't have to play against break chances so far in the clash, losing focus once when the match was resumed to drop serve and let Marat 4-3 in front.
After a few deuces, Safin clinched the set in game ten thanks to a poor backhand from the Aussie, controlling the scoreboard before the fourth set that was a must-win for Philippoussis. Mark earned a break point in the second game that Marat repelled with a good serve, pushing hard on the return in game five for his second and last break chance in the entire encounter.
Philippoussis denied it with a backhand down the line winner that kept him in contention, holding after two unreturned serves to move 3-2 up. This game proved to be even more significant when Mark broke at love a few minutes later to build a 4-2 lead, clinching the set in game nine with another service winner to send the battle into a decider after two hours and 40 minutes of play.
Nothing could have separated the rivals in the first ten games of the fifth set, staying locked up at 5-5 with extra weight on every point from that moment. From 30-15 down in the 11th game, Marat won three points in a row to bring it home and force Mark to serve to stay in the match.
At 30-30 in that final game, Safin missed an easy forehand that could have given him the match point, allowing Philippoussis to close the game with a nice serve&volley combo that set up the deciding tie break, the best possible way to end this thrilling contest.
From 3-1 down, Marat claimed five points in a row to create a 6-3 lead, with a colossal chance to cross the finish line first. Philippoussis was not to be denied that easily, though, finding two excellent first serves and reducing the deficit to 6-5, with Safin who had a serve for the triumph.
The Russian failed to convert the third match point as well after Mark's backhand endured a few tough shots before Safin sprayed a volley error for 6-6 and more points in this epic contest. Marat gained the fourth match point when he fired a nice forehand down the line that Philippoussis failed to control, squandering this one too as his forehand finished outside the court.
An amazing volley at the net pushed Safin 8-7 in front and this mini-break meant he was serving for the title once again. He couldn't get it right, missing a routine backhand that kept Mark alive, with the result once again leveled at 8-8.
A backhand down the line winner gave Russian his sixth match point, converting this one thanks to a poor forehand from Philippoussis who had to lay down his weapons after leaving everything he had on the court. It was certainly one of the best matches of the 2000 season and in the finals of Masters 1000 events overall, with a variety, different styles, and a great desire to win that final point in a thrilling closure.