Triumphant Safin pays tribute to Hewitt
Russia's Marat Safin paid a glowing tribute to tenacious Lleyton Hewitt after wearing the third seed down in front of his home fans to win the centenary Australian Open on Sunday.
The 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory earned Safin his second grand slam title and ruined Hewitt's dream of winning his national championship but Safin was full of praise for the Australian's fighting qualities.
"Congratulations Lleyton, you had a brilliant two weeks," Safin said after receiving the winner's trophy from Australian great Ken Rosewall.
"You are such a great fighter and you have an amazing talent that God gave you to fight until the end."
Hewitt, who rode a wave of patriotism fuelled by his never-say-die attitude to reach his first Australian Open final, said Safin deserved to win because he had beaten world number one Roger Federer in the semi-finals.
"I'd like to congratulate Marat on a hell of a tournament. He's one of the best players in the world," Hewitt said.
"He had a great finish to last year and knocked off the guy who's been nearly impossible to beat (Federer) so he thoroughly deserved it.
"I'd never made it past the round of 16 here before... but I'll try and go one step further next year."