THE L'EQUIPE INTERVIEW
Safin, by his friends
Marat Safin, elusive and mysterious, is not only the smashing racket man we see on courts. When we listen to his friends, his inconsistency and his impulsivity are also a way of life. A way to put his international tennis star status in perspective. His manager, Gérard Tsobodian, his ex-coach Marc Rosset and one of his friend Arnaud Casagrande, expresses their feelings about Marat Safin's personality, in which they see appearing a slavic soul.
Gérard Tsobanian, Marat's manager
I was in an advantageous position for dealing with his character because I spent 10 years working with Goran Ivanisevic. So Marat was sort of déjà vu and I was able to manage him quite well. Especially the fact that both of them are totally different on the court and in private. They are a lot less crazy and unpredictable.
The key was to understand their dituation and to put myself in their place. They were kids who came from countries where they grew up in difficult circumstances. That partly explans their impulsiveness, their needs and desires. I think that is one of the characteristics of the Slavic soul. They are hot-blooded, and sometimes they crash into a wall no matter how many warnings you give them.
Marat had total confidence in me but he also liked to be informed, as he should have been. I had to make him aware that the money was his, that he worked hard for it, and had to take the time to understand all that. Because after his career he will have to manage both his life and his money.
Recently he asked me and Ion Tiriac for advice about what investments he could make, now that the stack market is not what it was.
Tiriac is a model for a lot of these players. He has a good reputation because he succeeding both in sports, by bringing Becker to the top, and in business in Romania. So every time Marat or other players ask me about him, it's, "what is he doing and how much money does he have?"
Marat sometimes gives the impression that he doesn't care too much about his career, but I think that's just his way of handling pressure. So you have to avoid topics like, "What tournaments do you want to play next year?" and "How do you plan to get to number one?" Of course he is ambitious and wants to play tennis. But he refuses anything that resembles a career plan. He doesn't even want to plan his day.
Marc Rosset : « I was like him at his age »
It's easier to be his friend than his coach. But still, to coach him you absolutely have to be his friend. Which is true for a lot of players. To be able to last all year with someone there has to be ties of friendship.
Marat is clam, reserved and discreet. He is maybe not open with everyone, which is maybe what gives him his wild side. But his tantrums and throwing racquets, that's normal. When the frustrations gather over a match or a tournament, and you're a bit impulsive, there will inevitably be excesses.
As a pupil, you absolutely have to get him to buy into what you ask of him. He has a strong personality that he wants to rely on. When you get a little famous, everyone wants to give you advice and tell you what you should do. But at his age now, he feels the need to be self-reliant, to build his own experience. I was the same at that age.
He hates to talk about tennis. He's not a fan, and neither am I. He has a lot of interests and likes to read, so as soon as we leave the court we talk about something else. Compared to someone I know, like Federer for example, Roger is much more of a tennis lover off the court than Safin.
Arnaud Casagrande, "a friend" (and Escudé's coach)
Marat and I have our own lives away from the tour, but when we are at a tournament we spend a lot of time together. He's an interesting guy because there are two sides to him. When he likes someone he is very generous and will give you the shirt off his back. On the other hand, he's 21, likes to party, so he's not always very serious. That's natural, you have to enjoy life.
He's not the only guy on the tour who likes to party. We're not all in bed at 9:30 to watch the evening news! Marat can even stay out late the night before a match as long as he can sleep in. He can shift his day like that, and I love that. He almost never loses a match because he was out the night before. The risk is that he gets mentally tired and loses it: when he gets mad, he doesn't do it half way.
I know 4 of 5 Russians and they're all more or less like him. When you enter their circle, they are with you all the way. It doesn't matter that I coach Nico, the competition no longer exists. You're a friend, and that's it. Very honest.
He has a lot of ups and downs, and the downs can last a long time because he asks a lot of questions of himself. But I think he needs that. He wouldn't feel right if his path was more linear. We all have goals, and his is to enjoy life because we have just one.
Davis Cup is important to him and especially to Kafelnikov, but I haven't talked to him about it. I've never brought it up, and neither has he.
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