Safin looks within after loss
By TOM TEBBUTT
Special to The Globe and Mail
Saturday, August 3, 2002 – Print Edition, Page S4
TORONTO -- During his postmatch media conference yesterday, Marat Safin was seated in a comfortable, leather armchair but he could just as well have been stretched out on a psychiatrist's couch.
After his 7-5, 6-3 loss to Guillermo Canas of Argentina, Safin bared his competitive tennis soul.
Almost as if a psychiatrist had told Safin to start from the beginning, he traced the origins of his current crisis of confidence to the Masters Series Hamburg in May where he beat world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-1 in the quarter-finals before getting blitzed 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 by a red-hot Roger Federer in the final.
"I was playing great against Hewitt and he had no chance at all," Safin said. "Then after the final against Federer, I started to think I'm not good enough to beat all these players. Even though I made the semi-finals of Roland Garros, I was struggling. I played a terrible match against [Spain's Juan Carlos] Ferrero [a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 loss].
At that point, Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champion, raised his right arm and swung it downward with an accompanying whistling sound and said, "and then it was dropping, dropping, dropping."
It may seem ridiculous that one bad match would have such dire consequences, but Safin's tennis psyche is almost as fragile as his tennis talent is huge.
"Everybody knows what my problem is -- it's mental," he said with characteristic candour.
The endearing quality of Safin, 22, is that he smiles a lot, never losing sight of the humorous side of his frustration.
"I used to be more aggressive and go for my shots," he said. "Now I'm defensive and waiting for mistakes. It's so pathetic that it makes me laugh at myself.
Safin tries to regroup with a first-round match against Greg Rusedski at the Masters Series event in Cincinnati next week.
He did acknowledge that Canas played well. The Argentine is gutsy and determined and a redoubtable opponent. Sampras has drawn him in Cincinnati next week.
At the French Open, Canas knocked off 1998 champion Carlos Moya in five sets and Hewitt in four sets before losing a five-set quarter-final match to eventual winner Albert Costa.
Yesterday, he hit an impressive array of killer shots -- topspin lobs, passing shots and serves. He finished with an exclamation mark -- a service winner and two aces in a row.
"I've played very well all week," said Canas, 24 and ranked No. 19. "I've beaten three top-10 players [No. 10 Federer, No. 5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov and No. 2 Safin]. I'll try to make it four against [No. 3] Haas."
He has been bothered by tendinitis in his right wrist but played down the problem. "I've had it for three weeks and today it was better," Canas said. "I didn't feel it in the second set."
Santoro offered a straight-forward explanation for his loss. He cited a crucial service break in the second game of the final set. "He just played too good," Santoro said. "He passed me three times in that game and I can't say that I really played it badly."
Unlike Safin, there was nothing long and drawn out about his analysis.
v vvvvvvv vvvvvv~Good Luck Marat in 2005!~ v vvvvvvv vvvvvv
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." ~ John Lennon