Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Marat Interviews
2000 U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Flushing Meadows, New York
September 10, 2000
M. SAFIN/P. Sampras
6-4, 6-3, 6-3
An interview with:
MODERATOR: Questions for Marat.
Q. You said if you were scared a minute before you went out, you wouldn't be able to talk. Do you remember saying that?
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, I didn't talk on the court, I just played.
Q. Were you scared?
MARAT SAFIN: When I was really scared, it was in the last game. Actually, last two games. I think I had breakpoint for the 5-2, 5-1, I don't remember.
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah. So I knew if I would miss this, I can lose, so I was already start the game with my service game. I start with a lot of pressure myself. That's why I make double-fault. I didn't know what to do. I was under pressure. I couldn't play. I couldn't serve. I serve all the time with a second serve. I was close to lose it. I don't know what going to happen if I lose this game. I don't want to think about this. I was completely -- I was so nervous, I cannot explain what I felt. "It's now or it's never, never going to be."
Q. Why were you not scared before? It's your first Grand Slam final.
MARAT SAFIN: Because I didn't even think about final. I was trying to beat Pete. Just I knew what I had to do. I made it try to hold my serve. I think from the baseline I'm better than him. He has to accept this, that I'm better than him on the baseline. But in other parts of the game, he's much better than me. So with my baseline, I can win my service games easy because I didn't actually had big problems with this. Also with his serve, I knew I have to risk sometimes. I have to return his legs and after I have to pass him. It's simple. I know it's not simple, but it's simple to understand. Otherwise, you have no chance to beat him. If you start to make great returns, 200 kilometers per hour, you're not going to beat him. So it's very simple. We return to his legs and after we pass him. Very easy.
Q. When did you feel you had control of the match today?
MARAT SAFIN: Not until we finish, you know, yeah (smiling). Not before.
Q. Even after being up two sets?
MARAT SAFIN: It doesn't matter two sets. It doesn't matter if it's two sets and I had a match point. Doesn't matter. We can see against Todd Martin against Moya, two-sets-to-Love, match point. After what happened?
Q. You're obviously quite right, this is one of the greatest moments of your life, fantastic occasion.
MARAT SAFIN: How do you know (laughter)?
Q. How can you relate the feelings now to those you were feeling, say, going into Monte-Carlo in April?
MARAT SAFIN: I was much better in Monte-Carlo. No, it's difficult to explain because I just won a tournament, a huge tournament, but it's a lot of attention, I can see it, everybody wants to ask me. It's one step forward.
Q. Could you have imagined then? You must have had some disparaging moments then.
MARAT SAFIN: I think about quitting the tennis in Indian Wells. Now I won the US Open. Just I played -- I start to play better, and before I was thinking to stay in the Top 20. With luck, I can finish in Top 20. Maybe I can go to Top 15. Now I'm thinking about to be for No. 1 in the world. I have a big chance, so it's a big difference, I think.
Q. Was there one thing that turned that around for you, a match with somebody, a conversation you might have had with somebody that turned things around for your year?
MARAT SAFIN: I think Andrei, he just explain to me, and I understood this. My ex-coach, he was explaining the same thing. I'm just start to understand it now. But he was explaining the same thing like he did Andrei Chesnokov. I don't know how I understood better Andrei than my ex-coach.
Q. What was it?
MARAT SAFIN: What was it? "Just fight. When you're playing bad, you have to fight." I didn't fight. You know how many matches I lose 6-Love in the second set? I mean, it was a disaster. I was just making Christmas presents. I cannot do this. So I start to fight. I was playing -- I didn't play my best tennis in Barcelona, but I start to fight. I had a tough match against Zabaleta, a tough match against Portas. Then my confidence came. I start to play already with a big serve, inside the court, putting pressure all the time. I just found it in two days, three days. I don't want to lose it now.
Q. Do you believe in destiny? Did you see something written before coming here? You were so convinced in the third round saying, "I came here not to win the quarters or semifinals, I came here to reach the final and win."
MARAT SAFIN: I was right. I was right. No, because if you come here, if you have in your head make quarters, last 16, semifinal, what is this? It's nothing. Actually, it's nothing. You have to come to the tournament, to Grand Slam tournament mentally to win, to win it. Why not? Why I can't win it? I have everything to be in the final, even beat Pete.
Q. But you never said that in the previous tournaments.
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, I start to convince myself, otherwise I have to think in positive way, not negative. I came here and said, "I come here to win. If it works, it works." Sometimes it doesn't work, but at least you have in your head that you want to win here. So already you have inside to your body to win, to win each round, you know, just show to the people that I want to win this tournament. It doesn't matter with who I'm playing, it doesn't matter in which court. I want to be in the final. I want to win. That's it.
Q. How important was it that you had clothes given to you from Kiefer on your way to this win?
MARAT SAFIN: Gives me luck. Gives me luck.
Q. Without his clothes, how would you have done it?
MARAT SAFIN: Without his clothes? I would smell on the court, that's it.
Q. When you played Pete earlier this year, did you see any tendencies in his game that you thought you might be able to exploit?
MARAT SAFIN: Before?
Q. When you played him earlier this year, did you see any tendencies of his that you thought you could exploit or work on?
MARAT SAFIN: Everybody knows how to play against Pete, but nobody can beat him. Normally. Earlier in the year, I would not -- is no chance to beat him. I was playing so bad, maybe I would win one game in both sets, that's it. But now with the confidence, you know how to play, you have to receive, you have to risk sometimes, you have to be sure when you're going out to the court. But is also difficult to play against him when you are out of confidence. When you are with confidence, it's easier. You have to make right decisions in right moments. If you miss one shot, the set is gone, so you have to be a hundred percent sure what you are doing on the court.
Q. You said earlier that you had no confidence until you had won the match. Does this match change your confidence level? Do you not think that you can't lose one point for giving away the match? Will you be different when you come to play tennis next time?
MARAT SAFIN: Explain one more time.
Q. Is your confidence level much higher now, now that you've won?
MARAT SAFIN: Of course, of course. But, you know, the confidence is coming and is going very fast, very fast. One week you're playing great tennis, like I did last year, I played great tennis during two weeks. It was unbelievable for me. Playing great tennis for two weeks, make two semifinals, it was huge. After, the confidence gone until the tournament in Boston. It was like five months, something like this. I couldn't put one ball inside the court. Now I have the same situation, I have my confidence back. It's already during five months. You have to understand this situation, this feeling. You have to hold it because the game is there. The problem is in your head, nothing else. You have a head, and you sometimes use it. You can play great tennis. Otherwise, with only the shots, there's no chance. Now I have this situation that I'm playing with a lot of confidence, so tennis is much easier for me, much more easy.
Q. Pete just made a very strong statement. He said you could be No. 1 for many, many years. Maybe you don't want to think about it. What is your response? What are your thoughts about that comment?
MARAT SAFIN: Thank you very much, but I'm still No. 2 or No. 3 I'm going to be. Thanks a lot to respect me, first of all.
Q. Is this the best match you ever played? Was it the best return of serve you ever made?
MARAT SAFIN: Probably I can say it was best match when I return. I was returning -- I didn't return better in my life. But sometimes I was thinking too much from the baseline because I knew I'm better than him and I can't lose a point against him, so is not correct. You have to be -- you have to play your game. I start to push the ball inside the court. The last game was the same situation. I start to push the ball. I start to wait for his mistakes. You cannot do this. You have to play your game. If you start to push the ball, you can lose your game in five minutes. After you have to run from one side of the baseline to other side. So I hope I'll not do the same mistake, otherwise it can cost me the final.
Q. When you were age 14, you moved to Spain, you were very lonely, did you ever dream about this moment?
MARAT SAFIN: Never, never. When I was 14, I was thinking about how to get my first point in a Satellite. To get a point in Satellite, you know how difficult is it? It's very difficult. I was thinking about this. I was playing quallies. I couldn't pass one round in the qually. To get one point, you have to pass two or three rounds in the main draw.
Q. Most kids dream of winning a Grand Slam, holding the trophy. You didn't?
MARAT SAFIN: No. For me it was more important Satellites (laughter).
Q. How do you feel now about winning the US Open?
MARAT SAFIN: I don't have time to think. After when I go to the locker room, maybe I start to think about this. Now, it's just nice trophy. I hope I will take it with me. I can't explain to you right now what I feel. I'm still a little bit in the match, in the last game. It's very difficult feeling it was in the last game. I had adrenaline all over my body. I was so scared, I didn't understand. Now it's difficult to go out from this situation. I cannot think about how great is it to win a Grand Slam.
Q. If you think back to the whole tournament, what do you think was the toughest match that you had in the tournament? In the early rounds you struggled.
MARAT SAFIN: Three times I struggled, with Guardiola, Pozzi, Grosjean. I was almost on the plane with Grosjean. It was 7-6 in the fifth set. I was two sets up. I don't know what I start to do in the court. In half an hour, I lost two games. I was already a break down in the fifth set. I felt like I don't know how to play tennis anymore. I was making so many mistakes. I was running. I was just running all over the court. I didn't have any time to think. After, when I get through this rounds, I just said, "Marat, come on, let's concentrate, just play your game, make it three sets, and go home." I start to make it with Ferrero. With Kiefer, it was a little bit difficult, but I made it. I found my game after match of Grosjean because I was scared to lose. I just understood that I can lose here very easy.
Q. Early in the third set, you've already beaten Pete Sampras, up two sets, early break, were you as shocked as the crowd was?
MARAT SAFIN: I'm already three years on the Tour, so I'm used to play with the crowd, you know, with this huge crowd. I played like in Moscow also against Slovakia in the Davis Cup. Was the same, but for us. You don't think about this when you already played for three years on the ATP. You play your game. You don't think about spectators. It's a little bit different.
Q. Where did you get that point?
MARAT SAFIN: Which one?
Q. The point you were looking for, the Satellites.
MARAT SAFIN: Spain. I was very happy - more than now (smiling).
Q. Do you remember who you beat and where?
MARAT SAFIN: I beat guys like David Sanchez, he's 90 in the world, Peuntas (ph), he's 100. For me, they were like 400, 300. I had no points at all. When I beat them, it was unbelievable for me. It was something incredible. I was more happy than now.
Q. More money?
MARAT SAFIN: More money also.
Q. Despite your nervousness in the match, Pete said he's not sure you could have played any better. Can you look at that and just see the fact that you beat a guy who is 13-2 in Grand Slam finals, pretty much blew him away, can you look at what you did? Are you in awe, as a lot of people who were there were?
MARAT SAFIN: Probably I was less nervous than him because for him it's very important to win here, in New York with the crowd. I mean, 20,000 people coming to see you. I just -- I'm the guy from Russia who had not a lot of spectators here, so I had nothing to lose, completely nothing. So I just played my game. I was relaxed. He has a lot of pressure on him because everybody wants him to win here. I'm just one guy who came here. I didn't feel any pressure, except the last game. Then I start to think, "Yes, I can win." Pete, he become a little bit bigger on the court. He was all over. You know, he become huge. The racquet is huge. Everything is huge.
Q. Was it easier than you expected?
MARAT SAFIN: Actually, I didn't expect it's going to be three sets. But I returned very well, definitely. I can't return better, any better. I can't. I just made it. That's why it was maybe so easy. Probably he didn't play his best game also. But it's difficult to explain what happened.
Q. Before the finals, Alexander Volkov said you were in a hurry to get back to Spain to your girlfriend, Sylvia. Then after the match, he said you were in a hurry to get back to Tashkent.
MARAT SAFIN: I have to go to Tashkent.
Q. What about Sylvia?
MARAT SAFIN: She has to wait. I mean, the business is business.
Q. Champagne is already here.
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, but everybody start drink without me.
Q. Are you going to get drunk tonight?
MARAT SAFIN: Guys, what do you want me to say yes to put in the press? Between us, I hope so (laughter). It's for free. If you want also, it's for free.
Q. You went from being a clay court player primarily in Europe to winning maybe the most important hard court tournament in the world. How did you do it?
MARAT SAFIN: You cannot believe, but it's very simple. I become a fighter. I start understand better the game. I start to fight on the court. That's it. Is not so difficult to play this game. But you have to fight. You have to be there on the court. If it's five hours, you have to be during five hours there, running all over the court, point by point, be there, be tough. After, everything is coming.
Q. Can you believe now you were fined for tanking a match earlier this year?
MARAT SAFIN: What?
Q. I'm told that you were fined for tanking a match earlier this year.
MARAT SAFIN: Yes, but I don't know why the press -- somebody put that I just pick up the ball with my hand from the serve. I didn't.
Q. You didn't?
MARAT SAFIN: No, I didn't do this. Probably I was angry with myself. I return one serve on the fence. Another return, I just wanted to make a dropshot. Maybe it wasn't the right decision, but I wanted to make dropshot. Just went to the net. The guy just said that it's for tanking. I mean, at least I'm in history already.
Q. Is this ring around your neck of any special significance or do you wear it just for the US Open?
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, especially I bought for the final. It's from my sister.
Q. Is it good luck?
MARAT SAFIN: Yes. Actually, it's funny. When she just make me a present, I start to win matches, I start to play great. It gives me luck.
Q. When did she give it to you?
MARAT SAFIN: In a Challenger in Holland. I was like 400. She make me a present. I finish the year in top 200. I'm still with it. I'm already 6 in the world.
Q. When was this? When did you get it?
MARAT SAFIN: Three years ago.
Q. Will you ever say now that your sister will be better than you?
MARAT SAFIN: My sister?
MARAT SAFIN: I hope so. At least I have a big future coaching her.
Q. How will winning the US Open Championships change you as a man and how will it change your life?
MARAT SAFIN: Explain me one thing: Why you have to change? Why? Because of this (pointing to trophy)? I just win a huge tournament. I get this. Yes, I have a check of $800,000, it's here (pulling it from his pocket, all folded up). That's it.
Q. Did you sign the check already?
MARAT SAFIN: No. I have to get it out. The money in cash, I will take in cash everything.
Q. When you went for the dropshot early in the match, you slipped on the court, did you have any concern about hurting yourself?
MARAT SAFIN: No, you don't think about this.
Q. I was worried.
MARAT SAFIN: At least for me the match can finish a little earlier so I don't have this headache on the court.
Q. Pete said you could be No. 1 for many years if you wanted to. Are you aware of the sacrifices you need to make?
MARAT SAFIN: No, I don't want really (laughter). Of course, I want. Of course, I want.
Q. How much you want it, how much you want to be champion.
MARAT SAFIN: There is different levels how much you want. For me it's one level. I want. I definitely want. I want. If I have this opportunity, I will do this. If I can stay for one year, for one week, I will make it. If I have a chance to make it for seven years, for ten years, I will make it also. Everybody has opportunity to be in top. But if you want, you can be there. I want. I personally want.
Marat Safin - always the one and only