Just saw that report on www.tennis.com
and thought to post it:
Time for Marat to head for the hills
What’s up? Hope all is well. You must be in a good mood today after Russia's upset win over England in the UEFA game, huh? Big surprise, but then it¹s never easy for a visiting team to win in Moscow.
I saw you on TV this week, at the Madrid Masters. Looking good. You’ll be rocking the ’fro in no time.
After yet another early loss in Madrid this week, is it time for Marat Safin to think about packing his bags for good?
© Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
But listen, I’m writing on a more serious note. Let me be blunt: You’re a mess, man. You haven’t won more than two matches in a row since mid-July, and your best result this season was in February when you reached the semifinals of Las Vegas. Fitting, since you’ve been coming up craps ever since.
It’s the same story with you: another week, another miserable loss. In Madrid you, big guy, lost to an even bigger guy, Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 6-4, in 59 minutes. What, were you double-parked?
I could cut you some slack, since the 6-foot-10 Karlovic is a nightmare to play on an indoor court, but you obviously didn’t go into the match with much hope. What was it that you said? Oh, right, “I [didn’t] expect anything from this one. Just finish the year and that’s it.”
Ah, the power of positive thinking.
You’re killing me, Marat. Lately, you’ve been as committed to tennis as Hugh Hefner is to monogamy. And when you do play, it’s been painful to watch. Please, explain your flameouts this season to Feliciano Lopez, Kristof Vliegen, Janko Tipsarevic, Hyung-Taik Lee, and Nicolas Kiefer. Journeymen, each and every one of them, and you barely put up a fight. Which is more than I can say for your performance against Nicolas Mahut in Indian Wells, Calif., where you posted a bagel in the third set. That’s actually quite impressive. On some level, it’s harder to find a way to lose a set at love than it is to scratch out a game or two, especially with your firepower.
It’s all leading me to believe that you should quit tennis. I don’t mean temporarily hang up your racquet so you can go on a farcical journey in the Himalayans to regroup, reenergize, and refocus—clearly, you’re incapable of that. You should pack up and never return.
Marat, this isn’t an easy thing to say for me. Ever since you crashed the scene in 2000, blowing Pete Sampras off the court in the U.S. Open final—a victory that was at once brutal and artistic—I’ve been a big fan. No one hits a cleaner, heavier ball than you, and it’s been refreshing to have a top player with a fiery, melodramatic personality. You’ve got soul, unlike your compatriots Nikolay Davydenko and, before him, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who treat the game with a stone-cold business-like efficiency.
But your “why-me” theatrics have grown tired. Boris Becker played the role of Hamlet, too, pitching his head to the sky after a mistake as if some otherworldly power was torturing him for kicks. The difference was that Becker was a winner throughout his career.
What's with the ’tude, dude? You’re like a teenager who’s way too self-absorbed for his own good. When you were recently asked about the gambling investigation in men’s tennis, which strikes at the very core of the sport’s integrity and deserves an informed response from all of the top players, your response was weaker than an Elena Dementieva second serve. “To be honest,” you said, “I don’t really care. Whatever people do and whatever they want to do, I don’t care. If the world collapses, I don’t really care. I have enough problems myself. I can’t worry about other people’s problems.”
Never mind that this is the kind of thinking that gets us all into trouble in every facet of life – like, say, a war in Iraq – it shows a lack of respect for the sport that made you a millionaire in the first place. Even John McEnroe, Mr. Ego himself, cares (or at least pretends to care) about tennis.
Look, Marat, I know you’re hard on yourself—self-criticism is in your blood, ingrained over many formative childhood years by your mother and the severe Soviet system. Positive reinforcement? It didn’t exist in your universe. You’ve even said, “I didn’t care to play tennis, didn’t really like it.”
And I know you’ve always struggled with the high expectations that came from beating Sampras. You should be No. 1 if only you apply yourself, or so goes the conventional wisdom. It seems to me that you’ve chosen to diffuse this talk by playing so horrendously that no one can even entertain the thought of you challenging for majors anymore.
That’s a sad commentary on your career. Didn’t you get any perspective when you ditched your Davis Cup mates in September to trek up Nepal’s Cho Oyu mountain, only to quit at the base camp. I can only imagine how miserable you were, and how miserable you made your fellow hikers on that journey, when you discovered that climbing a mountain is, like, real work.
Tennis is hard work, too. You can’t keep playing meathead tennis, rallying without many changes in pace and placement, and expect to win. You’re good, but not that good.
I came across a quote yesterday from Paul Annacone that was apropos of your career. “My old boss said to me once,” Annacone says, “the definition of how good you are is in three areas: your head, your heart, and your talent level.”
What’s the average of a D, F, and A? We’re talking only slightly better than Marcelo Rios here.
Don’t laugh. He won 18 career titles; you’re at 15. Granted, you’ve got 2 majors, while Rios never won a Slam. But you both share that absurd, petulant attitude, which undermines everything you do on court.
Hey, man, it’s your career. But you’re 27, and if you can get healthy you might want to dig in for a year or two before your body, or mind, or both, totally conk out. No regrets, right? Otherwise, spare your fans the heartache and join Yevgeny at the poker table.