Re: SAP Open- Safin d. Oudsema 6-4; 7-6(3)
Safin keeps anger in check
Marat Safin once broke a racket over his head in anger and frustration.
That's a level of commitment and intensity you don't find in a lot of athletes. You don't see Barry Bonds doing that kind of
thing, for instance.
Tuesday night at the SAP Open at the HP Pavilion, Safin didn't break anything, barely got perturbed, and worked harder than
he might have expected to win his opening match, beating wild card Scott Oudsema, 6-4 and 7-6 (7-3), in an 88-minute
match that had the tourney organizers possible squirming on the edges of their seats.
The SAP folks went deep into their pockets to bring Safin to the tournament for the first time ever, looking at him as a top
drawing card. An upset on the first night of tournament would have been upsetting to a lot of people, including Safin.
Oudsema, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, brought his big serve and gave Safin a nice little opening test, especially tough
considering Safin just flew in from Chile, where he played in the Davis Cup Sunday.
Oudsema, the Kalamazoo Kannon, had a bigger serve than Safin and used it well, booming 135-mph aces, while Safin was
plodding along 10 mph slower with his serve.
Oudsema had 17 aces in the match, to Safin's 4.
You have to think the big Russian will have to pick up his game a bit if he's going to make a big splash in his debut in
It was tough, the commute from Chile to San Jose, Safin said.
"You go to the airport, fly 18 hours, take two hours for lunch, and it's back on the court," he said. "But what are you going to
do? You have to work ... It's my job and sometimes you do things you don't want to do."
Possibly because Safin was weary, he didn't flash much of the personality and fire tournament promoter Bill Rapp worked so
hard to bring here.
Safin is a racquet breaker, for one thing. There was the head trick, and on more than one occasion he has broken every
racquet in his bag. When that happens, he begs his opponent for a loaner.
One guy gave Marat a racquet and Safin beat the guy with his own club, so that's not likely to happen again.
Tuesday, no tantrums, no slammed racquets, not much emotion displayed, with the exception of one silence objection over
a line call.
But he seemed glad to be here, having foregone his usual jaunt through Europe at this time of year.
"I decided to say here (in the Western Hemisphere) and try my luck," he said.
Safin was once a superstar, beating Pete Sampras in the U.S. Open in 2000, a year that Safin spent nine weeks at No. 1 in
the world. And he won the Australian Open in 2005, beating Roger Federer in the semis in a classic duel.
Since then, injuries have dogged Safin, and possibly a lack of that 110 per cent commitment, a fault Safin cops to.
But he says he's healthy now, recovered from two years of injuries, and if so, at age 26 it's possible he's still got some No. 1
stuff in his racquets.
Tuesday Safin looked just a little bit slow, his long stokes almost languid, he wasn't quite as peppy as his opponent. But in
the second set and the tiebreaker, he started working the net. At 5-6 in the second set, he closed out the game with a
forehand volley so delicate it wouldn't have knocked the head off a dandelion.
After Oudsema opened the tie-breaker with a 136-mph ace, Safin used his volley, and a Oudsema forehand into the tape, to
win the next five points.
Now Safin can get some sleep, then get in some practice time on the super fast court, and regain some of the old Safin fire.
"I'm ready to win," he said, wearily.
Marat: Last question: what do you think of me? Dinara: You are my god! When you play, I love
to see you. When you lose, I am even sadder than when it is me. When you are wounded, I suffer.
When you speak to me, I drink your words. When you come to see me playing, I am with the angels.