Mirnyi Beats Kafelnikov, Reaches Final

Saturday, October 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STUTTGART, Germany (AP) _ Qualifier Max Mirnyi upset another prominent player at the Stuttgart Masters Series, defeating Yevgeny Kafelnikov 7-6 (3), 6-3 Saturday to reach his first final in an important tournament.

Mirnyi of Belarus used his serve-and-volley game to oust the fifth-seeded Kafelnikov, his good friend.

He will go for the title Sunday against the winner of the Lleyton Hewitt-Tommy Haas semifinal. Hewitt, the U.S. Open champion, is bidding to become the new No. 1 player.

This week, Mirnyi upset top-ranked and French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten, Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic and former No. 1 Pete Sampras. He saved two match points in each of the first two matches.

Mirnyi also saved two match points in a qualifying match and the ATP believes this is the first time a player has saved match points in three matches in the same tournament.

In one week, Mirnyi has defeated players with 19 Grand Slam titles among them.

He won the 2000 U.S. Open doubles title and was formerly better known as a doubles specialist. But he has been improving as a singles player and finished last year at No. 40.

Kafelnikov, a former No. 1 who has won French Open and Australian Open titles, dropped his serve in the third game of the second set. The Russian broke back in the next game, only to be broken again and Mirnyi closed the match. Mirnyi finished with 10 aces.

Mirnyi entered the tournament at No. 53 in the season-long Champions Race that produces the top-ranked player at the end of the year.

The $2.95 million Stuttgart tournament is part of the Masters Series, the nine events that rank just below the four Grand Slams.