Q. Do you see yourself, when you're out there on the court, have you been playing at the same level as 2000? People know your game more and it keeps getting more and more competitive to play at that high level week-in and week-out as you did that 2000 summer hard court season.
MARAT SAFIN: No, 2000 I think I played amazing tennis. I had so much confidence. I was playing just great. I was impressed myself that I could play such great tennis. I was surprised actually that I can be -- I mean, I can be good, I can win a Grand Slam, I can win two Masters Series tournaments, win in one year seven titles, is not so easy. I was playing great. I was playing with so much confidence. And this year, yeah, I can. I'm trying. But is not. I'm still far away. But, you know, I'm trying to get there. I'm trying. I'm looking for it, trying to. But is already half a year passed. Not many months is still left so I have to hurry up (laughter).
Q. What you were just talking about, does the beginning of the hard court season in North America help you out because you have had success in this part of the tour before?
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah. I mean, I always like to play in the States. I always played good tennis. Is what the question was, this question?
Q. Yes. Like you were saying, in 2000 you played so well.
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, yeah, but, you know, I was make quite good results in US Open. I don't know. I'm feeling comfortable, very comfortable, playing on the hard courts. So it's basically the tour of States. I like. I don't know, I like the courts, I like everything. For me it's easy to play good tennis there.
Q. Is there, do you think, a clear No. 1 in men's tennis right now?
MARAT SAFIN: No, not at all, at all. I don't think there is clear No. 1. You can be a little more lucky, a little bit unlucky. But there is not a one, you know, No. 1 like was Pete Sampras, this kind of guy. No, no, no. Everything is too close and everybody can beat everybody, so is basically ... Of course, we have Hewitt. He's a great player. But still, you know, he has some problems with other players, I mean, on clay courts. Playing against him, we have a chance. We know we have a chance. We know if we are fighting, we can beat him. Against Pete Sampras a few years ago when you were going on the court with him, you knew that you have no chance to beat him. It has to happen something, I mean, that he will not feel great, he will miss a couple of volleys, he will not serve so great, you know.
Q. Is the fact that there's no clear No. 1 a good thing or a bad thing for the fans, do you think?
MARAT SAFIN: I don't know. Let's see. Let's see how it will work. I mean, it's just -- you know, the tennis is changing. It's still some more young people are coming. Already the Top 10 is already young players. It's Ferrero, it's Hewitt, it's me - I consider myself a young player - Federer, Grosjean, Haas. They're young. You know, like my generation, '78, '79, '80 and '81, these year. I think in one or two years we'll see who is. Something going to happen, I think. Somebody will take care of No. 1, a real No. 1.
Q. Tennis doesn't really have a season. The tour runs pretty much year-round. How hard is it to avoid burnout and to keep yourself engaged in the game?
MARAT SAFIN: Can you a little bit explain the question, a little bit? You went too far with this thing. Just make it for me a little bit more simple.
Q. Because the tour runs year-round and doesn't really have long breaks, how hard is it to not burn out?
MARAT SAFIN: Okay, okay, I get you. It's difficult. I can tell you that how you can -- basically it's traveling 11 months a year. Can you believe it? 11 months? And it means that we are changing basically every week from tournament to tournament or we're trying to go for practice, you know. All the time it's airport, car, hotel, court, home, hotel, tournament, all the time like this. I think for me it's difficult because I'm also scared of flying, yes. I have this paranoia. But, I mean, we are trying. Everybody has the bad periods of the year, you know, when you don't want to do nothing. You are just tired of traveling, you are tired of playing tournaments, and you need to rest. So then you take two weeks, three weeks off, you know, just go out, just enjoy your vacations, to be able to start again and start to playing well because you cannot play well during 11 months of the year. So you have one month you're playing great, another month you're not so great, then you have bad losses. But you have to work on it, and it's very difficult sometimes to find the motivation to play. But also you have to see it's a job. It's quite a great job. It's nice work to do. But, of course, everybody -- I mean, everybody is taking even vacations, like make sessions of five tournaments, take two weeks of vacations.
Q. Have you ever wanted to do anything else besides play tennis?
MARAT SAFIN: I mean, to quit tennis and to do something else?
Q. Or when you were growing up, did you want to do something else?
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah. But, you know, you have to see from other side. Of course, you can find work to do, like not only tennis. But it's difficult. It's difficult to push yourself because you are already playing tennis since you are six, and I'm already 22. So it's like I'm playing for long time. And if I want to learn to do something else, I need to go back to school, I need to study, I need to spend the time with the lessons. I need to, you know, start again, start over, start zero, from the beginning. So I think it's better to keep on playing and do whatever I can do, and do whatever I like, which is play tennis. Yeah, but I like it. You know, just it's nice game. I think it's great.
Q. I read somewhere that your parents named you after the French revolution figure Jean-Paul Marat?
MARAT SAFIN: No, it's just a Muslim name. I think you know that I'm Muslim, you know, this religion. Yeah, that's why they call me because is Muslim name.
Q. Does the name mean something in Muslim?
MARAT SAFIN: Somebody told me, but I forget. I don't know. I don't know. Freedom. I don't know, something good for sure (laughter). Not French revolutionary. But I hope also because of him. Maybe because of him also. Maybe something it's a royalty (laughter).
Q. You mentioned that you're afraid to fly.
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah.
Q. Does that affect your game at all?
MARAT SAFIN: No, it affects me. Not tennis, it affects myself. Every time I go in the plane, sometimes I'm too scared.
Q. Just added stress to the travel
. MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, is difficult. But I'm taking sleeping pills, so is okay.
Q. Tell me what Lleyton Hewitt is doing right now that he's established himself as the No. 1, even though he's not a dominant No. 1. What have you seen change in his game over the last couple of years?
MARAT SAFIN: Just that he's a big fighter. He's more - how would say - you know, during the year his average is very high. He doesn't have bad losses. Every tournament he plays, he makes something. Instead of other guys, we can play great tennis, but sometimes we have such a bad losses, for example, I don't know. You have like second round a few times in a row. And he doesn't make this. He's very stable during all the year. That's what he has.
Q. Tell me about his groundstrokes and so forth. Is his game consistency?
MARAT SAFIN: Consistency, yeah, yeah. You are right.
Q. Are his groundstrokes the best in the game? Are Agassi's better?
MARAT SAFIN: Can you bring it again?
Q. His forehand and backhand, do you think are they the best in tennis or is there someone better?
MARAT SAFIN: No, I think -- Hewitt, what is good, his complete game. He has everything, you know. But he doesn't have the best forehand. The best forehand, I don't know who has at the moment. Ferrero maybe. Federer I think is the best forehand. One-hand backhand type thing is Kuerten. Tommy Haas is great backhand, one-hand. And two-hands backhand I think Kafelnikov, Agassi. And how to say this one? The Russian one, doesn't have a bad one also. What is his name, the young one, the tall one? This guy, you know (laughter)?
Q. I'm not sure which player that is.
MARAT SAFIN: The one not playing too bad. He beat once Sampras in the finals of US Open. Do you know him (laughter)? Safin, maybe Safin? I mean, I don't know, I consider myself I don't have a bad backhand. Not super, but I'm working on it.
Q. What do you think about the fact that there isn't a dominant player in tennis? Some people would say the game is as balanced now as ever. What do you think the reasons for that are? Why isn't anyone able to dominate nowadays?
MARAT SAFIN: Because everybody can play tennis and everybody just -- everybody can play, everybody. Means not only Top 10 players, they can play tennis. Means that the level of the guys like out of Top 10 is very high. That is the reason.
Q. Do you foresee anyone could get to a level where they can do what Sampras did for five years in a row?
MARAT SAFIN: I think now is a stage of being more -- the tennis has to be more equal. Of course, is going to be the guy that come up with something huge. I mean, it goes by times, you know. So I think it will be a few years like this, then it's going to come back the big guy going to come and he going to kick our ass big time.
Q. Could you be that guy?
MARAT SAFIN: I will be too old already for this (laughter). But I'm trying. I'm trying. But it's difficult. I'm trying hard, believe me.
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