Here is a terrific article written by one of Marat's fans:
Marat Safin: Perpetual Spirit
I have been lining up a few great titles for my latest article, and - coincidentally or otherwise, following that frustrating quarterfinals defeat in Toronto - here are a few I came up with over the last few weeks (before I finally settled on the one that seemed to say it all):
ANGEL O DEMONIO, SIEMPRE YO
BAD BOY, MARAT…BAAAAD, BAAAAAD BOY!!!
BORN TO BE WILD
JAMES DEAN OF TENNIS
MARAT THE BRAT
I know, I know, a lot of your eyebrows are no doubt shooting up at the moment, and believe me, I can just picture the levitating brow and the ice in his deliciously accented voice asking, "Eh?", should Marat himself happen to be reading this. Well, hear me out, I say!
Watching Marat lately, I've been struck with how much he's improved his game - no one can say these days that Marat Safin is all brute force and power and nothing much else. He's learned to serve and volley, he comes to the net more often and wins the point, he's got much more incredible angles and depth in his strokes, and yes, he has developed "the touch", as they call it, the finesse in the sport that is so appreciated and admired.
Not that 'finesse' necessarily means that the Wild Child in Marat has been tamed - not by a long shot! Not for nothing has he been called "the James Dean of Tennis". I know for sure that half the thrill of watching Marat play is how unpredictable he gets out there. He waves and flails his arms, he looks up to the heavens beseechingly, he lets out a hoarse shout of disgust with himself when he makes a stupid error, or else mutters to himself with that powerful jaw clenched tightly.
(Side note: And after all that, people, I say to you - Marat Safin is one of the shyest, most gentle persons on this earth. Yes he is. He may shout and yell bloody curses on court, he may be a certified case of a racquet abuser, and he certainly seems like a fierce gladiator to contend with out there when his temper is boiling. But all of it is directed at himself. This is a person who would first tear himself limb from limb before he even thinks about inflicting hurt or harm on others. The very idea would be horrifying to this soft-spoken gentle giant. : Sorry for the digression, but just had to discuss that particular point, which I don't think a lot of people have considered. )
The thing that he does that I least enjoy of Marat's "antics" is when he throws the racquet. It just doesn't look good, and it's a dead giveaway showing just how frustrated and unfocused he is. I don't know why or how exactly, but the racquet smashing sends a very clear signal, on a totally different level, of how much he's losing confidence and concentration and faith in himself. Not to mention that it just plain looks ugly.
So this year I have been watching delightedly as Marat, ever the free spirit, has been slowly substituting other less destructive "therapies" for his infamous on-court temper explosions - displaying his soccer skills with the ball, biting or kissing (!) the net or the ball, taking what I call "towel breaks" to regain his composure. And these tactics have been working well! Despite not winning any tournament this year (apart from Liverpool), he has consistently been near the top of the rankings, and he has made good results in the majority of the venues he's played. He's healthy and fit, he's learned a lot in the past 2 years, he has a little bit more experience under his belt, and he's had more time to get used to being in the spotlight.
So why hasn't he won a title yet this year, barring Liverpool? With all those positives added to his already astounding game, it is quite a baffling question why Marat keeps hitting and missing.
I'm inclined to think that he gives himself way too little credit with how much talent he already possesses. That's how I feel, really - his game is practically perfect, he should be invincible at this stage in his career, but that mental thing is so fragile. Like that last match against Guillermo Canas, that was a classic case of self-destruction at its most painful. Not that Canas didn't play a great game, nor that Marat didn't try - but the thing is, your opponent sees you crack like that, and it's a tremendous psychological boost to his game, and pretty soon you find yourself trying TOO hard.
And maybe the bottom line is this - Marat seems scared, somehow, scared that he won't win another trophy, scared that he isn't living up to his potential, scared that he can't do any of it ever again. Scared that he's losing respect. And he wants that respect above all, and he wants it badly, so much that he stresses himself out when he's out there on court. The problem is, he's wound up so tight with his own imagined fears and expectations that he's tripping himself up.
Whereas when he's playing relaxed, and even almost with a lazy, loose attitude, that's when he proves the most dangerous.
Have you ever seen the movie Pushing Tin, starring John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton? It's about the stress of being an Air Traffic Controller - you can't afford to make a mistake, thousands of lives are in your hands with every degree you dictate, every minute inch of airspace you direct blind pilots to. There's one line from that film that's really fitting for Marat at this point in his career: He has to let go. If he tries too hard to control the skies, the more that accidents and disasters will come his way. He has to loosen up, and to give up the control, in order to gain it. Does that make sense to you? It does to me! Let go, Marat! That is all the "balance" you need, that you spoke of before - the consistency that you crave will come when you learn to let go.
And whether you display the angel or the devil in you out there on court, know that above and beyond the admiration, the adulation, the awe and wonder that you inspire when you walk out there with your racquet and "do your job" - you have first and foremost our respect. For your talent and skill, for your athletic ability, for your independence and fire. For the perpetual spirit in you that won't be tamed. Perhaps in time you will be able to master the "wild child", the "brat", the "rebel", but I don't think he will ever be tamed…. and I know that your true-blue die-hard fans will not have it any other way.
Let go and soar, Marat! Claim the skies. I believe in you!
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