PARIS, Nov 3: Russia’s Marat Safin beat world number one Lleyton Hewitt of Australia here Sunday 7-6 (7-4), 6-0, 6-4 in 2hr 20min to win the Paris Masters Series for the second time and claim his first title of the season.

Hewitt, struggling in recent weeks after a virus forced him to miss the last Masters event in Madrid, had been gunning for his first title since lifting the Wimbledon crown in July.

But instead a fired-up Safin finally broke his year-long drought stretching back to St Petersburg last season.

Despite the loss Hewitt will almost certainly end the season as the top-ranked player in the world, his advantage over world number two Andre Agassi standing at 88 points ahead of the Masters Cup in Shanghai, where 150 points are on offer to the champion who remains undefeated throughout the round-robin event.

Adelaider Hewitt will now have to wait until his Chinese jaunt for a chance to land a fifth Tour title of the campaign and 17th of his career.

This season the 21-year-old had seen off allcomers at San Jose, Indian Wells, Queen’s and Wimbledon.

Safin, playing his third final in four seasons at the event here, pocketed a cheque for 402,000 dollars as he succeeded Sebastien Grosjean of France.

Hewitt picked up 211,000 dollars for his efforts.

The Aussie battler was far from his usually indefatigable best Sunday as Safin, once he had shrugged aside some early inaccuracy, tore into the favourite after snatching the opening-set tiebreak.

The protagonists had traded breaks in the fourth and seventh games with Safin drawing first blood to streak 3-1 clear before a volley wide let Hewitt back in.

Safin got away 5-2 in the breaker when Hewitt drove long on serve and although he staved off one set point an impetuous Hewitt forehand sent the Russian a set clear.

He broke for 1-0 in the second set and then saved three break points to hold, severely bending if not breaking Hewitt’s spirit as he romped through with two further breaks handing Hewitt his first 0-6 set since the Rome semi-final two seasons ago at the hands of Swede Magnus Norman.

In the third set Hewitt, broken in the fifth game, saved triple match point to hold for 4-5 but whipped a return wide in the next game as Safin completed the job at the fourth attempt.—AFP

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