Kafelnikov Overcomes Voltchkov, Pain to Win Tashkent Title
Russian star wins second title of 2002, 26th of career.
Finalists Kafelnikov and Voltchkov don traditional Uzbek garb for the Tashkent trophy ceremony.
Third-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov claimed his second singles title of 2002, and 26th tournament win in his impressive career, by defeating qualifier Vladimir Voltchkov of Belarus, 7-6(6), 7-5, in the President's Cup finals in Tashkent on Saturday. The win will likely help turn around what has been a disappointing year for the Russian, who has slumped to No. 30 in the ATP Champions Race.
The 28-year-old Kafelnikov was appearing in the finals at Tashkent for the third time, but earned his first win at the event (l. 1998 to Henman, l. 2001 to Safin). His 26 career tournament titles place him fourth all-time among active players (behind Sampras, Agassi and Chang), and this week's win was his ninth hardcourt title, including the 1999 Australian Open and 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Kafelnikov said he felt a great deal of pain during the match from an injury to his finger suffered during his semifinal against Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan. In that match, Kafelnikov had dislocated the fourth finger of his left hand when trying to block a body serve of Srichaphan. The pain hampered Kafelnikov's ability to hit his two-handed backhand.
Voltchkov, 24, had never before reached the finals of an ATP event. His strong showing in Tashkent - where he lost an average of only four games per match en route to the finals - improves his 2002 record to 8-4 on the circuit. He won the Manchester Challenger event on grass earlier this year.
What the Players Said:
Kafelnikov: "I still had a lot of pain and I didn't think I would finish the match if it was not a final, playing in front of so many people, including the president of Uzbekistan."
"I think Vladimir deserved to win this final and if it wasn't played in Tashkent, he probably would have won, but I made a promise to the president and all the fans." (Kafelnikov promised last year to win the title in his finalist speech)
"This title is very special for me. I wouldn't trade it for any other in the world, even a grand slam."
On Voltchkov's tactic of playing to his injury-hampered backhand: "That was perfectly fine with me. There are no gentlemen on the courts. I would have done the same thing probably."
On next week's Davis Cup semifinal vs. Argentina: "I am not sure whether I will be able to play in the Davis Cup tie. There is no time to rest now. I have already booked a practice session for 10:00 am tomorrow morning."
Voltchkov: "It was my first final and I think I was just too nervous to tell you the truth. On the other hand, Yevgeny has a lot of experience playing important finals and I think it showed in the end."
"My game plan was to play to his backhand. To be honest with you, I knew of his injury and I wanted to use it to my advantage. If he was seriously injured, he would have defaulted and if he didn't, then it was ok for me to play like that."