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Safin retires following Paris defeat

Former world number one Marat Safin ended his playing career with a 6-4 5-7 6-4 defeat by U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Porto at the Paris Masters today.

The 29-year-old Russian, who had saved three match points to squeeze past French qualifier Thierry Ascione in the first round of his final tournament on Monday, fought bravely against the Argentine world number five.

Showing glimpses of his old form, Safin, who has not won a title since the 2005 Australian Open, challenged Del Porto by winning a tight second set.

Safin, who held the number one spot for several weeks in 2000 and 2001 but has dropped out of the top 50, was broken in the third game of the decisive set and his opponent then stayed in control.

The Russian, who won the Paris event three times, saved a match point at 5-3 down with a forehand winner but Del Potro then served for the match, sealing victory with an ace.

The gifted but erratic Russian, who also won the 2000 U.S. Open, defeating Pete Sampras in a memorable final, was once regarded as one of the world's most spectacular players and will also be remembered for his rebellious spirit and dry humour.

The rise of Roger Federer, then Rafael Nadal, and a string of injuries meant, however, that the hugely talented Safin could not live up to high expectations.