12-10-2003, 05:58 PM
Great option! ;) Wow Girls! So cold.
Here is 32C and I'm complaining. Shame on me! :o
Here is 32C and I'm complaining. Shame on me! :o
12-10-2003, 05:58 PM
Great option! ;) Wow Girls! So cold.
Here is 32C and I'm complaining. Shame on me! :o
12-10-2003, 07:25 PM
32c?Lilly! :fiery: im soo jelous!!
12-10-2003, 07:39 PM
Come to Rio and I'll go to London! :p Just kidding... I think I couldn't survive with so much cold. For me 15C is too cold. :)
12-12-2003, 11:47 AM
2004 SEASON PREVIEW (from the ATP website)
December 11, 2003
Battle for No. 1 Wide Open in 2004
© Getty Images
The new season lies just around the corner with a number of players with the potential to grab the headlines in 2004. Rarely has a season looked so open, and with so many players having the skill, expertise and experience under their belt, it is anyone's guess as to who will end up on top of the world rankings at the end of the year. By SIMON HIGSON
Will 2003's usual suspects, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer and Juan Carlos Ferrero continue to make strides ahead of the pack? Can Andre Agassi still keep up with his young guns? Will Lleyton Hewitt stamp his authority back on the ATP circuit and again challenge for No.1? Are Marat Safin and Tommy Haas poised to make their long-awaited comebacks at the top of the tennis hierarchy? And will Argentine duo David Nalbandian and Guillermo Coria continue their charge?
The depth of talent at the top of men's tennis has rarely gone so deep, with the likes of Gustavo Kuerten, Tim Henman, Sebastien Grosjean and Mark Philippoussis all having the potential to pull out a big result when it counts.
Andre Agassi, who has been richly rewarded for his strict off-season training program in recent years, will be one of the favorites in Melbourne in January as he attempts to win his fourth Australian Open (and fifth in total) in five years. The opening Grand Slam of the year will also be a good indicator as to whether Hewitt will be capable of overcoming the slump that saw him plummet to 16th in the ATP Champions Race 2003.
With only fourth round points to defend from his 2003 showing, a big performance at the Australian Open from World No. 2 Federer could potentially see him reach the No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career in February. Former Australian Open finalist Safin has the firepower to make a sparkling return to the limelight, although many will argue that the Australian Open may come a few months too soon for the Russian to have a realistic chance of adding to his trophy cabinet so early in the year.
© Getty Images
Agassi will also look to add to his staggering 16 Tennis Masters Series titles when during the first two Tennis Masters Series tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, where he already owns a record six crowns.
The leading clay courters will once again be in full force as the European clay court swing gets underway in the Spring with three Tennis Masters Series tournaments and Roland Garros. Ferrero, who won Tennis Masters Monte Carlo and Roland Garros in 2003, is threatening to become the most dominant clay court player since Thomas Muster in the mid-1990s. The Spaniard is likely to face a stiff challenge from Argentines Guillermo Coria and David Nalbandian, as well as compatriot Carlos Moya. And don't forget Gustavo Kuerten, who surprisingly failed to collect a title on clay in 2003, but showed signs of a return to form with some impressive wins in the late indoor season.
Few will bet against Federer successfully defending his Wimbledon crown in 2004. Federer's straights sets defeat of Roddick at the Wimbledon semifinal stage in 2003 was received with welcome relief by many who had started to believe that the traditional grass court game had become a lost art in the face of baseline power-tennis. The Swiss was irresistible on grass in 2003 and, along with Henman and Philippoussis, Federer will face few challengers able to withstand his grass court craft and expertise.
American ace Roddick will have the unenviable task of defending all the points amassed during his magical American hard court streak in 2003, where he collected two successive Masters Series titles in Montreal and Cincinnati as well as his first Grand Slam title at the US Open. If anyone will warm to that task however, it is Roddick. 2004 will likely be a revealing year for the American, who will hope to build on his meteoric rise to the top of the game under the tutelage of Brad Gilbert.
Who will finish as No. 1? It's anybody's guess, but the all-court games of Federer and Safin (if fit) immediately set them apart as players who have the potential to shine on all surfaces all season long. With so many contenders in the mix, next year is sure to be one of the most exciting tennis seasons in recent times.
12-12-2003, 11:55 AM
I like the pic ;)
And indeed 2004 will be very interesting. Some players have a lot to defend, some don't.....;)
12-12-2003, 11:57 AM
thanks Nicki. Great article! 2004 will be very interesting and suprising :cool:
12-12-2003, 11:58 AM
I agree! ;) Can't wait for the next year!
Thanks Nicki! :)
12-12-2003, 01:24 PM
thanks nikki for the article!
12-12-2003, 09:32 PM
yes, thanks Nicki!
I agree 2004 should be very interesting and exciting. I would love to see Marat and Roger, the two most talented players in the game, dueling it out for the year end No.1 spot. :cool:
12-12-2003, 09:45 PM
that would be so great.
Finally talent would win over :D
12-12-2003, 09:54 PM
and it'll settle once and for all the 'who is the most talented player in the game' debate ;)
12-12-2003, 09:58 PM
and it would proove some people wrong :cool:
12-12-2003, 10:13 PM
i just think a lot of people have forgotten how talented Marat is or they just haven't seen him at his best. Hopefully, next year he'll play some great tennis and show the world his true talent. :cool:
12-12-2003, 10:19 PM
thats what i was thinking ;)
well its always like this. When Marat starts winning again everyone will again say how talented and great he is.
but luckily there`s still US, the loyal Fans :cool:
12-12-2003, 11:04 PM
yeah most people have forgotten how brilliant Marat can be (even I admit it HAS been a while)....there's more to rave about in tennis than Andy Roddick and his serve (pass the sick-bucket please.....)
Hopefully Marat will comeback in fantastic form to refresh their memory....
12-12-2003, 11:41 PM
well said, carrot! :bigclap:
12-12-2003, 11:48 PM
Hope so too, carrot! :)
Come back Marat! Can't stand Pandy and his gang anymore!
12-12-2003, 11:58 PM
12-15-2003, 06:14 PM
Interesting interview with Andrei Chesnokov from early 2002.
What would you say about our young players?
It seems to me that Denis Golovanov is not a bad doubles player. Though for a successful play in singles he needs to work a lot more and yet more… Michail Yuzhniy…
Will you come to see the match with the Swiss (Davis Cup)?
If they invite me – with pleasure! In general, you know, I really want the Davis Cup be ours. With such team – Kafelnikov, Safin… If the French have won it, why can’t Russia? It’s about time!
At the same time, unfortunately, I cannot call our present team united. Kafelnikov gives 100 % in every match. Because he really wants to win the Davis Cup, the same as he wanted to win RG, the Olympics, the same as he wants to win Wimbledon, US Open. But next to him in the team there is a person who , I think, does not support him in those aspirations. So- so, passes the time. The impression is that he does not need the Davis Cup. At least, one can see that “Kafel” plays, and some do not. I will not call the name, let all guess for themselves. Inside the team we talk about it, but it wasn’t said a single time in the press.
I think, everyone already understood who we talk about. What do you think prevails in Marat if not the desire to play, desire to win?
It’s better to ask himself about that and his managers.
Recently there has been talk going around that you don’t mind working again with him in the position of a coach?
To work with him was really interesting to me. And I think something came out of it then – in the beginning of summer 2000. But even if I again want to work with him, I absolutely don’t want to collaborate with his managers and agents.
I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. They do not understand what ordinary human relations are all about! I personally don’t like communicatig with them. When once I spoke to one of them he simply replied with a “uncensored phrase” addressed to me.
But what about Marat himself?
He believes his agent so much! He’s for Marat simply as air! He (Marat) thinks that there’s nothing else! Though he is mistaken, this is not so! By the way, Kafelnikov shares this opinion. Marat has gigantic talent! – and to bury it that way! It looks like they are not going to offer me a new colleagueship. Though the work of agents is contracts, sponsorship… But when they tell Marat that he needs to work with Piccard, Edberg, Wilander and he agrees to everything – I don’t understand. How can’t he see for himself who to work with and what to do?
PS:And here is what Anatoliy Glebov had to say in his interview to Tennis+ in 2002 –Excerpt:
..I wish him (Safin) to find his own coach, and would be better, I suppose, if this mentor is Russian. Would be great, if his managers truly helped him with that.
Question: Why didn’t he get along with Chesnokov?
Andrey (Chesnokov) is a great fellow, good coach, and their relationship clicked. But happened what happens often ….– wives get involved. All of a sudden they start ruling. But here is man’s business. …… It’s a pity that Marat and Andrei Chesnokov have split, this is my subjective opinion.
12-15-2003, 07:27 PM
this is very interesting, especially the thing with Marat`s managers :unsure:
I sure hope his team for next year will be alright. Thats one of the main things.
12-15-2003, 07:50 PM
Hope so too. Thanks Jessi! :)
12-15-2003, 08:53 PM
Yes, very 'interesting' about the managers. Do they really have that much influence and sway over Marat as Andrei claims? I mean, i'm sure Marat knows who he wants to work with.. all the managers can do is suggest people who be good for him to work with but, ultimately, its Marat's decision. After all, its him who has to work with that person not his managers.
I don't know, Andrei sounds a little bitter to me and i think we should take his comments with a grain of salt.
12-15-2003, 09:16 PM
From John Werteim's mailbag. The 2003 Baggie Awards.
Quote of the Year, men: James Blake. The former Harvard undergrad had this take on sources of intellectual stimulation on the tour: "There are some pretty intelligent players out here, such as, well, Todd Martin and [pause]... Let me think of a few more."
Quote of the Year, men, runner up: Marat Safin. When asked whether he was disappointed at having to pull out of the Australian Open with a wrist injury, Safin replied: "Yeah. Kind of."
12-15-2003, 09:17 PM
Here is the link to the full article
12-15-2003, 10:00 PM
Thanks for the article Jessi! :kiss:
About Chesnokov's comments... I don't know... I think Marat listen his manangers, but he takes the final decisions. Can't imagine Marat being so submissive.
12-15-2003, 10:18 PM
wow thanks for the article-im a bit surprised by Chesnokov's remarks- but im a bit unsure about Marat's managers, I know Gerard Tsobanian is one manager who is the other?not Amit is it? and if Denis is Marat's coach then what is Amit's role?Asst coach?Im confused!!
12-15-2003, 10:36 PM
Allon Khakshouri is the other manager. Not sure what Amit's role is but definitely not asst. coach to Denis. lol Atm, i think he's just a friend and confidant.
12-16-2003, 12:42 PM
:rolls: @ Marat`s quote
12-16-2003, 12:44 PM
i agree. Marat knows what he wants. I think he listen to his managers but at the end he is the one who makes the decision.... He is a very strong charakter, in all ways.
12-16-2003, 04:59 PM
yep, yep ;)
12-17-2003, 02:01 PM
BY SANDRA HEWarT
[SIZE=3]Marat Safin has "it." [SIZE=3]
I'm sure that terminology doesn't escape anyone. Everyone knows someone who has "it" -- that indefinable little something extra that makes a person somebody to notice. At 20 years old, this Russian has all the goods that give him star quality: he's tall, he's handsome, he's talented, and he has PERSONALITY. And, of course, having money doesn't hurt, either.
Personality is a big one in the business of tennis, because without it, you can accomplish a great deal but never really become an anybody. Tennis has been craving a future celebrity, and Safin has the necessary credentials. Sure, his talent is still a little bit raw, but it's there all right.
Proof? You want proof? How about a first career Grand Slam semifinal berth at the US Open? How about his quarterfinal victory over none other than Pete Sampras at the Canadian Open last month? How about his taking home the trophy from that Canadian Open? How about Safin reaching the Indianapolis final two weeks after winning the Canadian Open? How about Safin winning three of his four titles just this year?
Safin has a theory to his success and the keyword is "AFRAID." "I think you have to be afraid, otherwise you going to the court, you think that you have to win," Safin said, after his 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 quarterfinal victory over Nicolas Kiefer of Germany. "You have to be afraid every time you going to the court. Otherwise you go to the court like you go to the beach."
Did I forget to say that Safin is funny, too?
Safin's biggest weakness has been that he hasn't quite figured out that you can't go after every ball like it's the last ball you might hit. Tempering his game to know when it might be prudent to play a little bit on the conservative side will certainly make him a far more mature player in the future. And there's no question that his desire to win is definitely a beneficial trait. "Semifinal is not enough, definitely," he said. "It's never enough, believe me."
It could bring a little excitement to the table if Safin comes through his side of the draw and Sampras comes through his end of the draw to meet in the finals come Sunday afternoon. According to Kiefer, who was a warm-up act for Safin, the Russian can take it all here at the US Open.
"The way he plays, I think his confidence is getting much bigger and bigger," Kiefer said, emphatically. "He played a lot of matches this year. He had a great season. For sure, he has a great chance to get in the final. He also beat Pete a couple weeks ago. I think he has a good chance, good chance for him to win."
Safin isn't running out to build a shelf for a US Open trophy just yet, accepting Kiefer's judgment as a compliment, but with a bit of a sense of humor: "It's only words. Can you believe it?" he asks, with an impish grin.
Kiefer stopped short of trying to compare Safin to Sampras, taking note that Safin is just another one of the young guns that the newest ATP Tour advertising campaign -- "New Balls, Please" -- is trying to push with the public. He also probably couldn't find the comparison, since Safin has no Grand Slam trophies, while Sampras displays a record 13 among his collection of 63 titles.
"He's (Safin) much younger," Kiefer said. "He didn't win so many Grand Slam tournaments. He's one of the 'New Balls, Please.'"
Safin first learned his tennis from his mother Rausa Islanova, who is actually having a good Open here with former students. Elena Dementieva, who pushed her way into a first Grand Slam semifinal (where she'll meet Lindsay Davenport), also counts Safin's mother as her first coach. Safin remembers the days when part of his training included practicing with Dementieva, and he doesn't have any inhibitions about saying way back then "she was bad."
While his mother taught him his tennis strokes, Safin credits his father with teaching him how to have a temper. That's why he is known as one of the up-and-coming racket smashing artisans. But he's been working hard to try to curb the bad habit, since it has become rather costly. "You know how much I paid already this year?" Safin said of his fines. "If you can pay my fines, it's okay -- I can break many (rackets). It's close to $7000, or even $10,000. Do you know what I can do with $10,000?"
Maybe build that shelf for a US Open winner's trophy?
12-17-2003, 03:54 PM
Interesting article! :yeah: Thanks! :)
12-17-2003, 08:04 PM
Thanks helena! I love that article. Sandra Harwitt is a wonderful writer.
12-17-2003, 08:07 PM
thank you nelia :D
What a great article :worship:
12-17-2003, 08:28 PM
Marat talks about Tarpishev: "Shamil Anvyarovich is another father for me. He knows my parents for a long time. I doubt whether I could become a successful sportsman without his help and support, especially to overcome some difficul moments of my sport biography. He`s the best in finding words that can help in specific critical situation whether on court or in life. His moral support is very important for me, it makes me feel more confident. By the way, I think his contribution to last year DC was decisive."
12-17-2003, 08:43 PM
12-19-2003, 09:43 PM
Marat update from theguyfromrussia.com
Marat hasn't planned a specific schedule for 2004; he will wait and see how well he plays first. The only tournaments he is confirmed for are Hopman Cup and Aus.Open. He's not planning to play Sydney. Marat was practising incredibly hard in Monte Carlo and he is still with Denis for now.
I assume he's now back in Russia and will fly to Australia from there. Marat might be in fewer tournaments next year, and tournaments will probably be decided while he's travelling. I think he's being cautious about next year, because of his injuries in 2003 and also his low ranking. At least he's being careful, and he's going to be back soon! Hurrah! I think this is probably the last official news of 2003 as Elite are now closed.
12-19-2003, 09:44 PM
Nice to hear Marat has been practicing hard. :)
12-19-2003, 10:45 PM
Thanks for the news Jessi! :)
12-20-2003, 09:52 AM
thanks for the news Jessi :kiss:
this sounds good :bounce: cant wait until Hopman cup!
12-20-2003, 11:38 AM
Question: There is such a thing as the "Hopman Cup Ball" is there not?
Question: Will Marat be there?
12-20-2003, 12:32 PM
Yes there is a hopman ball, usually kim&lleyton attend it..
don't know if marat will be there (we'll have to wait for the pictures) ;)
12-20-2003, 04:23 PM
hewitt and female hewitt at the HC ball:hewitt looks drunk
12-20-2003, 04:29 PM
It's nice to see the players all dressed up for a change...
Does anyone besides Mr and Mrs Hewitt attend this ball?
12-20-2003, 06:30 PM
:lol: carrot! Hewitt looks 'happy'.
Hope Marat can be there. Would be nice! :)
12-20-2003, 08:32 PM
I didn't know there was a hopman cup ball. When is it? Before or after the tournament?
Hope Marat attends.. i want new pics ;)
12-20-2003, 08:33 PM
"female hewitt" :lol: Poor Kimmy! :lol:
12-21-2003, 02:42 PM
I didn't know there was a hopman cup ball. When is it? Before or after the tournament?
It's a new years eve party so...before.
12-21-2003, 02:47 PM
It's nice to see the players all dressed up for a change...
Does anyone besides Mr and Mrs Hewitt attend this ball?
I think tickets are available to the public, I dont know of anyother players besides the Hewitts who attend this thing....
If Marat were to go who would he take? Anastasia?probably.....what an odd couple they would make!
12-21-2003, 07:46 PM
It's a new years eve party so...before.
hmmm.. then Marat definitely won't be there. I think he'll be in Moscow with his friends on new years eve. The event doesn't begin till 3 jan so don't think he'll be flying in early just to attend some function with a bunch of strangers. Just my hunch.
12-21-2003, 07:52 PM
Marat and Anastasia an odd couple? I disagree...i think they'd make a lovely couple. Both are stunning-looking people.
Now Marat and Petrova... :lol:
12-21-2003, 08:39 PM
i dunno I find anastasia quite moody
12-21-2003, 08:41 PM
Marat and Lina would make a great couple!!!
12-21-2003, 08:45 PM
i dunno I find anastasia quite moody
she is but so is Marat ;)
moody people are interesting people ;)
12-21-2003, 08:47 PM
yeah moody people are intriguing....still dont like Nastya though....
12-21-2003, 08:59 PM
Lina K... best looking russian tennis player ....after dinara ;) but she's Marat's sister so they wouldnt make a cute couple loool ew
12-21-2003, 09:06 PM
she's very pretty but the best-looking Russian girl? I think Anna K might beg to differ with you there ;)
12-21-2003, 09:10 PM
Anna wins best slutty-looking russian girl ;)
12-21-2003, 09:13 PM
Lina has very elegant features, while I do agree Anna is pretty, imo she's overrated I like Sharapova too she has a very natural and simple look.
12-21-2003, 09:14 PM
well, don't hate me but i think Anna is an extremely beautiful girl although i'll admit she's had her slutty moments ;)
12-21-2003, 09:15 PM
lol Kiara! What about Maria Sharapova?
12-21-2003, 09:18 PM
well, don't hate me but i think Anna is an extremely beautiful girl although i'll admit she's had her slutty moments ;)
I couldn't hate you :D
I concur, Anna=very beautiful
12-21-2003, 09:20 PM
lol Kiara! What about Maria Sharapova?
Sharapova is very very pretty girl and great tennis player!
Dementieva is pretty too no?
12-21-2003, 09:21 PM
Anna is really beautiful, but for me Maria is more. And plays better. ;)
12-21-2003, 09:23 PM
Dementieva is pretty.
12-21-2003, 09:24 PM
Nothing against Myskina, but I prefer to watch Marat playing doubles with Dementieva.
12-21-2003, 09:26 PM
I find Maria very ordinary looking. :o I guess she's pretty but there's nothing special or unique about her look. Also, i can't stand her game... all that grunting :eek:
12-21-2003, 09:27 PM
I couldn't hate you :D
I concur, Anna=very beautiful
aww.. thanks :kiss:
12-21-2003, 09:28 PM
LMAO!!! man the girl can GRUNT!!! something someone said in another forum that really tickled me- "imagine Sharapova and Nadal getting it on" :haha: omg!!
12-21-2003, 09:30 PM
I find Maria very ordinary looking. :o I guess she's pretty but there's nothing special or unique about her look. Also, i can't stand her game... all that grunting :eek:
She was fined once because of it. :lol: I think can't be worse than Seles.
12-21-2003, 09:30 PM
12-21-2003, 09:31 PM
12-21-2003, 09:35 PM
She was fined once because of it. :lol: I think can't be worse than Seles.
oh man Seles is the worst!
Thing is you look at Sharapova and you see this pretty, sweet looking girl and you can never imagine such horrible noises coming out of her :lol:
I watched her play at Wimbledon and boy did she work that crowd!!! it was so much fun though...I thought she was teriffic!
12-21-2003, 09:43 PM
Marat and Anastasia an odd couple? I disagree...i think they'd make a lovely couple. Both are stunning-looking people.
Now Marat and Petrova... :lol:
nothing against Nadia :p she is a lovely girl!
12-21-2003, 09:44 PM
Nothing against Myskina, but I prefer to watch Marat playing doubles with Dementieva.
yeah, Dementieva is definetly better than Nastya when playing good.
12-21-2003, 09:47 PM
for me, the prettiest Russians are Anna, Lina, Elena D, Elena B, Dinara and Maria
Elena Bovina --->
12-21-2003, 09:50 PM
yeah Elena is pretty!!
12-21-2003, 09:54 PM
nothing against Nadia :p she is a lovely girl!
i was referring to the height difference :p
12-21-2003, 09:55 PM
btw, have you guys heard Marat grunting? Very sexy...
12-21-2003, 09:57 PM
i was referring to the height difference :p
:lol: thats true ;)
Elena B is even bigger, she is 1, 89 m :eek:
12-21-2003, 09:58 PM
btw, have you guys heard Marat grunting? Very sexy...
yeah several times. He doesnt do it often, but mainly when its very tight...
i love it ;)
12-21-2003, 09:58 PM
she's 5'10 not short????....Imagine Marat and Justine....argh no dont :eek: justine could probably sleep in Marat's shoes :lol:
12-21-2003, 09:59 PM
btw, have you guys heard Marat grunting? Very sexy...
Yeah! Agree with you. ;)
12-21-2003, 10:00 PM
or better, Marat and Tatiana Panova (1,54 m) :rolls:
12-21-2003, 10:02 PM
Marat grunts like a man! phwoar!!
12-21-2003, 10:03 PM
Petrova is 5'10? Ok, i must be thinking of another girl.. who's the Russian girl thats supposed to be the shortest player in tennis?
12-21-2003, 10:05 PM
Petrova is 5'10? Ok, i must be thinking of another girl.. who's the Russian girl thats supposed to be the shortest player in tennis?
Tatiana Panova , she is 1,54 m
12-21-2003, 10:07 PM
thats teeny!!haha her and Marat... she could walk on stilts :lol:
12-21-2003, 10:08 PM
Tatiana Panova -->
panova is the shortest in the wta and petrova one of the tallest ;)
Nadia Petrova -->
12-21-2003, 10:09 PM
Marat grunts like a man! phwoar!!
And I love it!
12-21-2003, 10:11 PM
Panova is shorter than me. :lol: A hobbit! :p
12-21-2003, 10:13 PM
:lol: yeah, she could be a hobbit
hobbits are so cute :hearts:
12-21-2003, 10:15 PM
Alyona is very natural pretty :)
12-21-2003, 10:16 PM
Tatiana Panova , she is 1,54 m
yes, thats her name.
Imagine if her and Marat hook up :lol: an odd couple if there ever was one :lol:
12-21-2003, 10:16 PM
yes, they are! :)
12-21-2003, 10:16 PM
Marat and Justine.. ew ew ew
12-21-2003, 10:19 PM
most of the russian girls could be models... very pretty and statuesque.
12-21-2003, 10:20 PM
yeah, Justine is a bitch and ugly while Marat is beautiful inside and outside.
12-21-2003, 10:21 PM
haha Marat and Serena???gosh dont go there!!!
12-21-2003, 10:22 PM
12-21-2003, 10:47 PM
haha Marat and Serena???gosh dont go there!!!
you have a sick mind :p I never would have thought to put them together..
12-21-2003, 10:48 PM
12-21-2003, 10:49 PM
you have a sick mind :p I never would have thought to put them together..
LMAO what you dont think they'll make a good couple hahaha omg I think I outdid myself there...
12-21-2003, 10:53 PM
you certainly did. Don't do it again :p
12-21-2003, 11:05 PM
12-22-2003, 04:34 AM
Serena is definitely out of the question :p but what about Venus and Marat? :cool:
12-22-2003, 09:07 AM
not bad, Venus is a classy and smart woman :) And she is very tall ;)
12-22-2003, 09:08 AM
morning Andrea! :wavey:
yes, my thoughts exactly. :)
12-22-2003, 09:10 AM
12-22-2003, 09:57 AM
The Reluctant Hero
Heroism is endurance for one moment more.
Even forgetting about the Russian team’s triumph in Bercy, with Marat Safin playing the role of the unsung hero – by leveling the field and giving the Russians one more window of opportunity to win the Davis Cup; or even his magnificent, eat-your-hearts-out-critics-and-nonbelievers triumph earlier in the same locale with his Paris Masters Series win – there is no question that Marat Safin is a hero – the quintessential gladiator with guts of steel, a spirit on fire and a heart brimming with courage.
It takes a lot of fortitude, walking in his shoes. Like Maximus the Gladiator, it is plain to see that Marat is the best there is in the field, athletically speaking – with his intimidating physique, his classical training, his stamina and endurance, his speed and power, and the impressive arsenal of weapons he has at his command. He possesses the same daredevil brand of bravery, the kind where you just grit your teeth, clamp your jaw tight and go for it, with fire sparking from your eyes. He shares the same explosive passion, fueled by either burning desire or blind desperation, which manifests itself in an intensity aimed to obliterate the enemy.
Like Maximus, Marat is the best in the arena. And perhaps precisely because of this, Marat – like Maximus – displays that tiny but nonetheless palpable reluctance of being the hero. For very private reasons of their own, both gladiators have a marked aversion to the spotlight. If there was a way to do their jobs without focusing undue attention to themselves, they would grab it like a shot. Maximus obviously has a past to hide. But with Marat, it’s a different story.
With Marat the tennis player, it’s a question of nerves. The intense competitive atmosphere of the ATP in the 21st century, where generally speaking it’s every man for himself, unlike team sports – means there are expectations and predictions and pressures from all sides. The media, the tennis community, the fans, fellow players, the wide world of international sports – all eyes are on you. And in the world of tennis, that means that all your results, all your stats, all your wins and loses are your sole responsibility. And you are forever being judged and compared and analyzed by these results.
This would be enough to give pause to even the average player. Try applying it to the one who is seen as the future of men’s tennis, the player judged to be the most outstanding, the most gifted, the most talented, the one with the most potential. The one “who will save men’s tennis” as some quarters have even ventured to point out. In Marat’s case, then, the pressure to “deliver” is magnified tenfold. Now open your eyes and take a good look at this demi-god, as he has been painted, and recognize what a private, down-to-earth person he is. It doesn’t take much figuring to realize how all this attention and pressure weighs heavily on his shoulders.
And yet –
"When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure." -- Peter Marshal
Both times in Bercy at the end of this year’s tennis season, Marat looked like a mighty oak against the contrary winds, and proved himself a diamond under pressure. From reading Dendy’s and Ruth and Vee’s reports, it appears that Marat accomplished this by solid commitment, and uncharacteristic yet unwavering discipline. As I pointed out in an earlier article, these are what separate the good players from the best in the world. These qualities, combined with natural talent and raw guts and ambition, transform a player from mediocre to exceptional. In Marat’s case, he is already exceptional by himself, but like a diamond in the rough, if he is to live up to his potential, he needs a good bit of polishing.
That is, assuming he feels the need to prove himself, to “live up” to anything.
Personally, I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
The great conflict in Marat is that he is famously bull-headed. He believes in following the grain in your own wood. He is fiercely independent, a trait he exhibited early on even as a child, and later reinforced by his growing-up years in Valencia, Spain. It is not so much a question of having problems with authority, as it is a case of being free, self-sufficient, and intensely private. Marat has developed a reputation of gregariousness, of being one of the most amiable players on tour, one of the nicest and most accommodating tennis idols to the fans, one of the wittiest and most humorous personalities in the locker room and in interviews. But that is just one facet of the whole person. It is all part of “his job”.
Away from the limelight he is a reserved, quiet, thoughtful young man, despite his other reputation as a party boy and a ladies’ man. More often than not, says good friend Marc Rosset, you can find Marat Safin relaxing with a good book. He doesn’t like discussing his family. (And often this is misinterpreted as something else.) Neither does he like talking about his private life, mostly answering with the curt reply – “I’m young. I want to enjoy life while I can.” Meaning - I play tennis and do my job, but my private affairs are my own, if you don’t mind.
In fact, he is so down-to-earth that he has no star complex at all; it isn’t hard to imagine him laughing excitedly with his friends and family about being on the David Letterman show, or meeting Bill Clinton, or having a grand old time at the Playboy Mansion. In fact, one could easily picture him saving up magazine covers he has graced, to show his grandchildren someday! He is the type of person who refuses to take his superstar status seriously, and that’s what makes him so affable with his peers, so cordial with his fans, so agreeable to the media. Like the knight in shining armor heroes of old, he is courteous and gallant to all. His mother Rausa promised as much in an early interview – “I tell you, you will see (Marat’s politeness) on court.” For those of us who take keen interest in him, we know the truth in those words. All that the rest know are his “tantrums” and explosions and broken racquets.
And that is an incredible thing – how often Marat is misunderstood. Marat himself has pleaded that “I’m not completely nuts, I’m just different.” The fickle-minded tout him one day as The Next Pete Sampras; and then on the days that he stumbles and fails to deliver, it’s all about his “mental weakness”, his “immaturity”, and then they become like vultures just “waiting for him to crack”. This kind of feedback deals a big blow to his confidence, leading him to question and doubt himself. And that’s when the streak of losses accumulate, tournament on top of tournament, until we witness him puzzled and defeated, floundering and drowning.
An age is called Dark, not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it.
-- James A. Michener
But what makes him a hero in my eyes is his refusal to give up. His frenzied drive in the last leg of the season testifies to this fact – he played every week in every venue that was left on the ATP circuit, just trying to get enough points to qualify for the Masters Cup. If he has one fault, it is that he sets his sights too low. Or more correctly, he is too content – “If I finish no.3 in the world, I am happy” “If I continue playing like this and getting these results” –quarters and semis—“I am satisfied”. Perhaps Marat lacks the ambition, the burning desire, to truly be the best in the world – in actuality and not just in theory. But I don’t really believe that. The hunger is definitely there, and sometimes it’s almost eating him up inside, the way that he internalizes the pressure and allows it to unravel his game.
Perhaps the better way to put it is that he’s too willing to settle for less, and maybe this, too, stems from his refusal to take himself seriously. The need to prove himself and his potential is tempered by his nonchalance about his fame and skill. Most people would accuse him of laziness. But the truth, like the man, is quite simple. Unlike most athletes today, Marat was brought up not with competitiveness, but with sportsmanship. His parents, especially his mother, grilled into him the importance of always remembering that tennis is just a sport – that one day he may win, and the next he may lose. The important thing is to enjoy playing the sport, and to give your best.
When Marat remembers this is when he plays his finest. Then he can let go and just play, without worrying about how many points he’s making towards the rankings, about how his results will reflect on his chances of winning the next Grand Slam. When he doesn’t internalize all the outside pressure, and only listens to the burning desire inside him to win, that’s when he makes jaws drop. That’s when people grope around for praise and superlatives that are fitting enough to describe him. That’s when he brushes aside opponent after opponent, claiming title after title.
And even then he refuses to bask in his glory – he shrugs it all off, or even cracks jokes about it. “How did you do it?” (Defeat the legendary Pete Sampras in straight sets.) “You think I know???” That’s just the way he is – and how he wants to be known. Just an ordinary guy who plays tennis for a living. As he so aptly puts it, “The stars are only in the sky.” This humility is not contrived for effect. If there is anything Marat is, it’s that he’s honest and straightforward. The modesty about his blinding talent is just how he was brought up, it comes naturally to him.
Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.
So that’s what makes Marat a reluctant hero. It isn’t a lack of ambition, or carelessness, or indolence, or a devil-may-care-attitude, or false modesty. It’s his humility. It’s how he asks to be understood, to be accepted and treated as just an ordinary, normal kind of guy, with normal moods, normal habits, normal hopes and dreams and disappointments and defeats. It is a given that being blessed with extraordinary gifts like Marat has been, gives him undeniable and automatic hero status. But like Maximus, Marat doesn’t want to be put on a pedestal. All he wants is the opportunity to go out there and do his job the best way he knows how, asking for nothing in return except respect and an appreciation for his privacy. Isn’t that what we all want?
Let us have Wine and Women, Mirth and Laughter, Sermons and soda water the day after.
- Lord Byron
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces towards change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
-- Helen Keller
Marat, against all odds you fought back and proved yourself at the very last second this year. As always it has been breathtaking, beginning from Melbourne right down to Bercy and that immense triumph for your country. I hope next year will be even better, through good and bad, through thick and thin. I hope you have a good vacation and a good rest, so that the start of the next season will find you relaxed, and unmindful of all the external pressure. Just continue to heed the voice inside, staying true to yourself. Let go, trust yourself, and I hope you know that I believe in you.
12-22-2003, 10:10 AM
Thanks Andrea! I love Isabelle's articles... so moving and inspiring.
Hope she'll write more..
12-22-2003, 11:33 AM
Me too.:) Beautiful articles! :worship:
Thanks Andrea! :kiss:
12-22-2003, 02:47 PM
here are some more articles from Isabelle. I enjoy this again and again!
Light and Shadow: Inside the Head of Marat Safin
We've heard it all before, haven't we - and it's been said enough times, so that even Marat Safin himself is forced to acknowledge that the single most glaring weakness of his game leans on "the mental side". He has these quicksilver lightning changes of mood out there on court, so much so that when he is playing, it's never safe to say that he's going to win, that the match is his, until it IS over. Only when we see him with his arms raised in victory, and we remember to breathe, only at the very end do we know.
With his solid baseline game on any surface, his huge serve, his powerful backhand, his long and lean frame that can cover the court with such amazing speed, his tremendous talent - it is a sore point to consider that he has yet to win a title this year, much less a Grand Slam. And most baffling of all is when you stop and look at his results this year so far - in general, very good results - with finals, quarters and semis scattered all around. It just seems that there is something off balance, for him not to be able to follow through; something missing for him, something he needs to push the limits and go for the finish line and the gold.
In analyzing "the Safin mental thing", it is wise to keep in mind that Marat is an incredibly complex soul, full of contradictions - a fact that he subconsciously recognized and acknowledged when he made the statement about "a need for balance, for consistency", earlier this year. And therein is the crux of the matter, really - within Marat there are two very different opposing forces that he struggles with. He is gregarious yet shy, a gentle, soft-spoken giant who is infamous for his explosive tantrums on court, a very private and simple person who loves the good life, a serious reader and philosophic thinker with a wry wit who loves to party.
Tennis-wise, Marat is at once one of the most laid-back and yet most intense players on court. Consider his walk - it is nothing like Agassi's or Hewitt's brisk, businesslike strides, eager and ready to play, nor is it anything like Sampras' or Rafter's slow, deliberate steps that speak of deep concentration and focus. Instead, Marat walks almost with a swagger, whether he's loose and relaxed or tense and keyed-up - he always walks with such a lazy, loose-limbed, devil-may-care grace.
And then there are the times that he cracks up at humorous moments, whether at a particular point played, a funny mistake by either players, or whether he is simply laughing grimly at himself. Sometimes, out of the blue, when the tension is running high and you're cringing and expecting another smashed racquet in the near future, he turns right around and does the craziest things, lying supine there on court, his hands behind his head, as if he's settling in for a cozy nap right after taking a huge tumble… walking up to the net, and just when we expect him to hit it or kick it or bite it, he stoops down slowly and deliberately and kisses it! And what about the little shrug of the shoulders, the mouth pulled down into a long grimace of self-disgust, the smacking of his palm against his head…
At the same time, he gets so intense on court - his eyes like daggers, his hands with a death grip on his racquet, muscles and sinews all tense and ready to spring. His determination and drive becomes a palpable thing, something that sparks and crackles like electricity in the air. Sometimes he relieves the pressure by shouting, by kicking the timer, by arguing calls, by hurling his racquet.
And all of these have been lumped together and labeled as the Safin mental thingy, like it's a disease, like it's something he should be ashamed of. He gets so many tongue-in-cheek comments about his on-court implosions that he's even learned to speak of them in a self-mocking way. But it is so much more subtle than that.
In getting to the heart of the matter, it is particularly interesting to contemplate the irony that Marat is so fond of putting "the past" in its place, of carelessly stating that history is done with, finished, but this little thing is what destroys his game. He makes one mistake on court - minor or glaring - and it stays and niggles at the back of his mind, effectively breaking his concentration. Particularly when he's impatient to get in a break, or trying for one of his high-risk winners -- and then immediately afterwards the error, he loses his serve, seemingly without even being aware of it, and suddenly he's staring at set point, and facing the prospect of having to convert to catch up, which in turn crumbles his confidence, and there you go. Consider his scores at Toronto - 7-5,6-3, and Cincinnati - 7-6, 6-2, they illustrate this point clearly. Same thing at Roland Garros. Same thing in Melbourne.
Which all boils down to the fact that Marat punishes himself too hard. The explanation of which may come as a surprise to his critics, who slam him as being too slack or sloppy - the plain truth is, Marat is a perfectionist. He is unbelievably tough on himself, and there you have the thread that ties together all the seemingly erratic and disjointed complexities that make up the Safin psyche, tennis-wise, at least, that baffles and frustrates so many. The racquet-breaking, Spanish-swearing, Russian-cursing, ball-bitting, net-kissing, timer-kicking, arm-flailing, head-hanging, heaven-beseeching, on-court explosions… The pendulum-swinging of dazzling brilliance and stomach-churning errors… The slide from ice-cool glacier total focus to mind-blowing frustrating inconsistency and back again… which spirals ultimately to either a great boost or a disheartening loss of confidence. Confidence, FAITH, which Marat depends upon, draws upon, feeds upon. And then it becomes a cycle.
And so we come to the inevitable question - what is the solution? What must be done, so that Marat can overcome this infernal "mental weakness" - such a little thing, as we have seen, but like an avalanche it builds up under himself, and then it just scoops him up, knocking his feet off from under him. It's ironic, really, in a way - what is so frustrating when Marat loses a relatively easy game, so frustrating and so weird at the same time, is that Marat, in a way, loses to himself. In plain words, that is what happens when he plays so poorly, prompting fans and peers and the media and the tennis world to grope around for a reason why such a brilliant and talented player could lose so maddeningly. To illustrate, take the 2002 Australian Open Finals. Marat set up that loss for himself.
And that's why he's feeling so lost these days - because he knows he has only the man in the mirror to blame.
So IS it time to bring in the sports psychologist? Nah - Marat may be many things, but he isn't nuts. (Not THAT nuts, anyway, hehehe…) No, what he needs is - surprise, surprise - a good coach. Someone to channel all that fire and power and energy, someone to discipline that raw talent.
There's the key, and the whole point of this long-winded discussion. In 2000, Marat Safin magically conquered the tennis world by luck, by golly, and indisputably with his natural talent and a whole lot of heart and courage. But in the daily-weekly-yearly grind of intense competition, raw talent can only get you so far. Heart and courage may fail you. Marat had a momentous epiphany when he recognized and voiced his need for consistency. With so many talented and powerful players today, it's anybody's game, but to gain any significant edge one has to be consistent. Marat has to establish a very basic and major consistency first: he has to find the right coach, and stick with him.
He needs the guidance, the stability, the security, the discipline that the right coach can bring to his natural talent, so that it works for him. He needs a coach to work on his error statistics - the points that he gives away due to impatience, a rush to finish the point, a lack of discipline with himself. Without doubt, the fire in Marat's game stems from one incredible thing, and it's not the power, or the strength, or the speed and agility. It's his courage. The fact that he's willing to take risks, which is evidenced in almost as many errors as winners. And so his game can be very, very dangerous. Both ways - to his opponent, but also to himself. Marat needs a coach to teach him to focus that danger solely on his opponent.
Marat needs a coach to teach him patience, to refine his tactics and strategy. To tell him to fight for every point, no matter how many deuces and tiebreaks a game can go into. To teach him, above all, that the number one most important thing is to hold serve, because when he loses it, that's when the train begins to run away from him. To teach him to adopt the attitude of going into a match like he's got nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Of course, there are players out there who play just fine by themselves, without a coach. And I'm not saying that our Marat with the incurable streak of independence has to confine himself and bend his will forever. All I'm saying is, right now, that's what he needs. He needs a coach - or probably a more fitting word is a mentor, such as geniuses have, -- to hone his talent, to polish his game. Here's hoping that Marat has finally found the perfect mentor in Alexander Volkov.
In my last article, I mentioned that Marat seems scared, that he's doing all he can, that he's trying so hard, and yet he's scared that he cannot ever do any of it ever again. This time I am here to tell him: Marat - there is nothing to be scared of. Not of expectations, or lost chances, or pressures. The ten titles you have under your belt, and your #2 ranking and seeding in tournaments - don't let these victories become a burden by putting pressure on you. Instead, keep that remarkable list close in your mind, hold on to it as proof positive of all that you have accomplished so far, and of all the things you are fully - more than capable of - still accomplishing. These triumphs are not yardsticks that you have to prove yourself against - all that these titles and rankings matter is that they stand as testaments to your incredible talent, nothing more, nothing less.
So let go. Remember, Marat? "The shops could run out of milk, but there will always be porridge"? You don't have to be so practical, so controlled and cautious and defensive anymore. Don't settle for porridge! The milk is there for the taking, the prize is yours, if you have courage and faith enough to let go and trust yourself.
"The only thing that stands between a man and what he wants from life is often merely the will to try it and the faith to believe that it is possible." -- Richard M. DeVos
"Fear of failure and fear of the unknown are always defeated by faith. Having faith in yourself, in the process of change, and in the new direction that change sets will reveal your own inner core of steel." -- Georgette Mosbacher
Your core, Marat, is made up of an intriguing blend of light and shadow. More than anybody, I understand how one complements the other, how one cannot exist without the other. But you've walked in the shadow long enough. It's time embrace the light again, one day at a time, if need be. I hope it helps to know that your fans are always here for you, through the peaks and the slumps, through the triumphs and losses, through good times and bad. We all believe in you so much, Marat! Now it's time for you to believe in yourself.
As the pressures of life intensify, sometimes the difference between going after a dream and remaining passive is having someone say, "I believe in you!" -Greg Smalley
Guess who believes in you?
Always and all ways,
the faithful and faith full -
p.s. -- (Sorry for the sentimental porridge analogy/metaphor, folks - just couldn't resist! :)
12-22-2003, 02:49 PM
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!
12-22-2003, 02:50 PM
What a difference a year makes. Just as the fickle-minded press dismissed Marat Safin last year as a one-hit wonder boy with a penchant for temper tantrums and hard partying, this year it seems they're almost running out of superlatives, like there aren't words enough to praise the talented, temperamental young gun.
"Marat Safin thrashed world number one Lleyton Hewitt…"
" The Russian saved both breakpoints with full-blooded forehands…"
"Safin produced an awesome display of power and poise to overwhelm world number one Lleyton Hewitt…"
"Sixth seed Marat Safin thundered through to the second round…"
"Safin crushed Italy's Davide Sanguinetti…"
"But the former US Open champion had too much class and clinched his place in the quarter-finals…"
"Gasquet put up a fight in the opening set but once Safin found his touch, his power and experience saw him claim his victory…"
"Watching Marat Safin play tennis is like riding a rollercoaster in the dark: it's much more fun because you don't know what is going to happen next…"
Apparently, Marat Safin is now "grown up", "more experienced"; and his "power" has been distilled from something raw and untamable into a strength with "class" and "poise". Apparently, watching Marat play tennis now has been transformed from frustrating into "fun". And, apparently, people are now even willing to forgive him his little quirks (like his outrageous entourage Down Under) and his independent streak ("It would be a pity to spend probably the best years of my life just living with tennis. I don't think it does any damage living your life and doing your job on the court.") The Marat Safin Star is on the rise again, and everyone's rushing to hitch their wagon to it.
But we, Marat's fans, have known all along of the promise that lay dormant inside him. And we Marat fans have from the start embraced his eccentricities and fierce love of liberty, being part and parcel of the unique personality that makes up the total man. Watching the Hamburg Masters Series on TV, I was amused with the commentators -- especially this particular cocky young guy who kept mentioning "Safin's fragile mental attitude", and was almost drooling over himself just waiting for "Safin to crack", etc etc etc… It gave me immense satisfaction for him to swallow his words at the end of that match! (3rd round match against Chela.)
But I have to admit I can understand where that brash young announcer was coming from -- I actually sneered at Marat when he smashed his racquet that time! It's just that, as always, it was so obvious what an incredible athlete Marat is - not just a tennis player, but an ATHLETE - with an athlete's build, an athlete's training and background, an athlete's raw power and talent and singular charisma, an athlete's formidable intimidation. He is almost a demi-god, in fact, that it's actually almost funny sometimes how Marat can have trouble converting all that dangerous promise oozing out of every pore in his body into awesome, invincible, undefeatable tennis, like we all know he is more than capable of.
But when it happens - when Marat finds that elusive switch and throws it, his game is boosted to an electrifying level that leaves the onlooker in a state of speechless awe. Take the quarters match against Hewitt, and the semis match against Robredo. At last the Clay Court Master finally emerged, and he looked awfully impressive and terrifyingly in command out there. He played the best claycourt tennis I've seen this year, and I hope that's the form he displays at Roland Garros tomorrow. This time the fickle commentators kept oohing and ahhing about his power and skill, comparing him to a sleek panther, and speculating about his all- KO record if he were a professional boxer. (He gets that comparison a lot, doesn't he!)
Marat explains his much-improved performance as simply a matter of consistency. "You can change your game much. You just have to improve…Be more consistent. That is the main thing. Two years ago I couldn't volley, I have improved. I improved my forehand and my backhand... I have also some weak points in my game. It is more important for me to get there and stay for a longer time there. It is important to be more consistent. I have to win more matches. If I play consistent, then I have the confidence and I'm more calm. Then it's like routine."
Ergo, the ever-elusive and oh-so-crucial confidence builds too. "That's most difficult part of the game, you know, to get the confidence. Because when you are getting the confidence, you go out of the court, you go to the court and you are already know that you definitely going to beat this guy. Or at least you have, I don't know, 70 percent, 80 percent that you gonna beat him. That's -- it seems to be very simple, but it's not…. You need to feel a little bit scared. Not feel fear, but know that anyone can beat you, that it's not like you can just go to the court and know you're going to win. You have to work. I know that confidence is fragile so I will try to hold it for a long time…. It's like love. When you look too hard, you don't find it. When you let it happen naturally, it comes."
So when it came to the Hamburg Finals against Roger Federer, the only conclusion I can come up with is that Marat "looked too hard" to win the title. An important title, being his first of the year - one that could have elevated his "confidence and consistency" to an all-time high just in time for Roland Garros. A title that could have put him "close to the point that he was 2 years ago". Ironically, Marat put pressure on himself - his worst enemy - and it made Federer's job of defeating him that much easier. Just like it gave Thomas Johanssen his first Grand Slam title in Australia at the beginning of the year. Marat has tasted pressure ever since he made history by virtually "ending" Pete Sampras' career (Anyone notice that Pete hasn't won a single title since the 2000 US Open?). And it's something that he'd rather not have over his head.
"You always work hard to get to the first spot, especially being there at the beginning of the season. I made some good results so far, I was in the finals in Australia, then the quarter finals in Miami, quarter finals in Monte Carlo and now in the finals here (Hamburg). It's good. I would be satisfied to do the same for the rest of the season….I'm not defending anything until basically the US Open where I make semifinals, and I am full of confidence and I'm gonna be dangerous on clay - very dangerous. I think -- but I prefer to stay like this or that nobody will take me serious or I will not have too much pressure on myself. I just play my matches, I win my matches, and I'm getting closer and closer to No. 1."
But while "the most laid-back guy in tennis" would rather not have the spotlight on him, he acknowledges that it is part of his "job". "I am here to play tennis and to answer your questions and do my job, and my object is to finish this year No. 1. And if you have some questions about the subject, I will answer it with pleasure."
Marat looks at tennis as his job, no more, no less, and he works hard at it. "Losing can make you a little crazy. Then you start to doubt and it goes from there. People see us hitting balls for a few hours but they don't realize how tough tennis is…" Win or lose, however, he gives an unforgettable performance on court, and he never fails to thank the tournament directors and the sponsors. He gives a great performance off court too, in interviews, and posing for pictures and signing for fans. He is especially conscientious about "the people", acknowledging that all of it is for the fans.
"I mean when the people are coming to watch tennis and they are enjoying it, you enjoy it also. You know, it's just -- because I am playing for the spectators. If they're having fun, it's great. I'm feeling much better. I'm playing much better. And also when they are cheering for me, then it's too good. It makes your game easier…. There should be a wind rule, it is not correct to play otherwise. The ATP should do something so at least we can play tennis. It is our job to play and we have to give our best, but it is not enjoyable to play in these conditions - not for us and not for the spectators. … I want to be happy, to enjoy, that's the most important thing. I don't want to say that I like being famous or that I look for it, but people recognize me or whatever, why would I not be nice to them? We have a good life here. If part of that means that I am recognized or people want my autograph, it's OK."
More and more with Marat, I'm getting convinced of that old saying - it's not the destination, it's the journey. I know that win or lose, it's always such a thrill just watching him play-danger and delight combined. Danger for my poor heart! : I really do get overexcited sometimes, it takes me hours to come down from the high of living each point with him.
"Nova - 'new star'. By a new star we do not mean one previously nonexistent, but simply one of which we have been unaware. It was there all the time; but for reasons unknown a star becomes unstable and, in perhaps a day or two, increases ten- or a hundred-thousand-fold in luminosity….often called "flash" novae. They flash to prominence, then fade slowly back into obscurity. Much rarer objects are the supernovae, which undergo sudden increases of luminosity of perhaps a billion-fold." - Robert S. Richardson
And in Marat's case, I believe he belongs to the latter category. We may not see that blinding flash of brilliance all the time, but when it emerges it is breathtaking to witness. We bath in the afterglow of the radiance, and we know that even if the light recedes back that it is there, waiting for the time to burst forth again.
So I know that I'm looking forward to RG2002 with bated breath, eagerly anticipating the sheer joy of watching Marat play. I am hoping that he lets the confidence "come naturally", and that he "plays consistent" - and to my mind, and from what I've observed, that translates into rearing in all that raw fire and wild power and tempering it, so that it crystallizes into a glacier-cold focus and intensity that will annihilate his opponents point by devastating point … on his way to his Second Grand Slam. Let the media scramble around for superlatives to applaud him then! :
I won't need their words, though - because I know, I've always known, that Marat Safin is one in a million, unmatched, unique. My wagon was hitched to his star even before it started to shine… it stayed hitched when the light retreated for a while… and it will still be there, riding high with the Alpha Wolf, when his nova achieves peak radiance once more. Will it be as soon as the French Open? Only "the enigmatic Marat Safin" knows for sure.
I know for sure that I believe.
12-22-2003, 02:51 PM
Marat Safin: Generation Next
"If I can get through the first week I will be very dangerous in the second week." Marat Safin's 'warning', if you will, back in Auckland, New Zealand two weeks ago, talking about his chances in this year's Australian Open. Almost word for word with the same sentiments he expressed at last year's US Open, where he was summarily dismissed because of his poor 2001 performance. Never mind that he was injured for most of the year, never mind that he was the returning champion - people just didn't give him a fighting chance, figuring that he was just another flash in the pan. But, in the same manner as he has reached the finals in Melbourne this year, he quietly and systematically worked his way through in Flushing Meadows- round after round, until suddenly he was in the quarters… then the semis… where he faced his old nemesis and great idol, Pete Sampras. We know how that story went.
"The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart."
-- Robert Green Ingersoll
And we know how their 4th round meeting went this time too. So why all the focus on the great Pete Sampras? (Bear with me for just this paragraph more.) Simple. Marat is his successor. We all know that, and the world started to think so when Marat so effortlessly brushed Pete aside to claim the US Open trophy last 2000. Pete himself called Marat "The next great champion", adding that he has the potential to be no. 1 for many years to come. For Marat's part, he has always spoken of Pete Sampras with the utmost reverence and awe, calling Pete "The best there is." For his idol, unquestionably the greatest tennis player of the last decade, to "see himself 10 years ago" in Marat, is no small thing. It is a portent from the king himself that he has finally met his equal, and the one worthy to take over his throne.
But the point is, that starting from that pivotal Grand Slam win, Marat started to really feel the pressure and the burden that are requisite of fame. Added to the physically grueling and mentally exhausting ATP schedule of 2000, that sudden superstardom came at a price - injuries on top of injuries the next year, and the consequent 'poor performance'. And, with it, the very unfair conclusion in general that Marat Safin, fiery temperamental Russian talent, was just another one-hit wonder. That he couldn't deliver on his promise. Never mind that he reached the quarters of Wimbledon and the semis of the US Open. Where the sports world and the media had been raving about him in 2000, they were now on to the next big thing. Marat who?
But his fans never forgot. Oh, no - and the 2001 ATP Awards are testament to that. "Fan's Favorite: Marat Safin". This, despite having successfully defended just two of his titles last year, and adding no new ones to his roster. This, despite numerous injuries that have seen him exit the tournaments in the early rounds again and again, when so many people were dying for the chance just to see him play - not to win, simply to play. This, despite ending the ATP season early, in November, and being out of the limelight for two months. The fans know who their hero is. The fans trust in his incomparable skill and talent for the game, and they believe in him 110%. But above all, the fans just appreciate the guy behind the player, and this is the true reason that he was voted the favorite. Just for being who he is - sometimes shy, sometimes volatile, soft-spoken, with a biting wit and a refreshing lack of ego. These, more than any other technical tennis-related qualities, make Marat Safin a people player, and a promoter's dream. On the Safin rollercoaster express, you are guaranteed the time of your life - with plenty of highs, and the accompanying lows, but never a dull moment. Marat is a likeable guy - hot temper, blinding smile, intimidating court presence, magnetic charisma, little-boy vulnerability, smashed racquets, self-deprecating quotable one-liners and all.
Oh, and one more thing - his indomitable will, his perpetual spirit. His grin-and-bear-it brand of unconquerable courage. He cultivated this self-discipline starting in Valencia, Spain, at the tender age of fourteen. Sometimes it manifests itself in a to-hell-with-it independence and love of liberty that has seen him go through a total of five coaches in as many years in his short professional tennis career.
"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -- P.J. O'Rourke
But that life lesson served him well last year. In typical bullheaded and fiercely independent Marat fashion, he took just as much time off as was least possible, taped his injuries, and grit his teeth and went out there on court. Despite his rusty form from lack of practice, and the self-doubt and plummeting confidence, he pushed himself to go out there and do his "job". That job did not end on court, either- it extended to posing for pictures and signing for his innumerable fans from all over the world, forcing a smile on his face when all he must have wanted to do was just retire straight to his hotel room after yet another disappointing defeat.
"The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are the things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur." -- Vince Lombardi
Which is not to say that Marat did not give his all last year, either - that misconception should be completely blown away by his results in the last two Grand Slams of the year, and his successful title defenses afterward in Tashkent and St. Petersburg. Finally starting to feel hopeful, he tried for a place in Sydney last year, didn't get in, and shrugged his shoulders easily and took off for much needed rest and relaxation.
So all in all, 2001 was not a wasted year at all, not if Marat learned from it, and I believe he has. He has learned that his body will break if he pushes it over the limits; he has finally found a genuine camaraderie with his Swede coach Mats Wilander; and I think he even enjoyed having the heat off him for a while. He definitely reaped the benefits of his long vacation, that much is for sure. He is back in tip-top shape, a year older, and definitely wiser. He has gained that which no amount of training or practice could give: the lesson of experience.
"A genius is someone who shoots at a target no one else sees and hits it."
I think, especially with his second-round loss in Auckland two weeks prior to the Australian Open, that people were iffy about his chances Down Under. And not just because of 2001, but that infamous 2000 event that Marat is famous for in Melbourne. This time around he was the surprise favorite, largely because of the early upsets of the seeds, and perhaps even partly because that awe is back in the people's wide eyes and open mouths. Marat injured is still a force to be reckoned with; Marat doubtful and unfocused can still stun you with surprise winners; but Marat in top shape, with confidence flying high, inspires instant flabbergasted awe and reverential adoration. It's like a fever. Indeed, he seems almost like an invincible god, and one can only gasp and shake one's head at the almost-impossible shots that he executes with seemingly no effort at all.
"Perfection is attained by slow degrees; she requires the hand of time. " -- Voltaire
And so… The man who was fined two years ago "for not trying" is now the only man left standing… Almost. He entered the tournament seeded 9th, and unsure of his prospects, and just "concentrated on playing point by point"… He advanced quietly round after round, and the cheers started to grow louder and louder with every win, together with the confidence that renders his game almost undefeatable. He may not have captured his second Grand Slam Title, but he has proven irrevocably to the world that he is back in dangerous form, capable of reaching the Finals of another Grand Slam event, some might say, against all odds. Especially in Melbourne, and his history there. A sweet revenge indeed…
Of course, it would have been an even sweeter birthday present if he could have, indeed, been the last man left standing. Somehow, in the heat of the moment, he got a little too complacent, maybe, a little too unworried. And Thomas Johanssen nabbed those breaks of concentration, and before Marat knew it, he was facing match point.
And yet again I say that all is not lost, for this experience will teach Marat another set of very important lessons, if he chooses to learn them. Not least of which is the fact that it will help him to deal with the omnipresent pressure that is a virtual guarantee for him everywhere he turns, especially now that the Alpha Wolf has emerged again. If nothing more, his performance at this year's Australian Open has solidly established the fact that he is most assuredly back, and ready to fight for a place at the top, as part of the elite Masters of the Game.
Marat who? Marat Safin, Generation Next, that's who!
A toast to a great 'comeback' Down Under, and with many wishes for much love, light and happiness for your 22nd year, Marat! As ever, I say Bravo!
Marat's Fan and staunch Believer,
12-22-2003, 02:53 PM
A Valiant Fight and a Graceful Exit for the Alpha Wolf
Well done, Marat.
The 2000 US Open Men’s Tennis Champion put up a worthy fight to defend his title this year; summoning all his faith and courage and skills, despite a shaky season, to advance to the semifinals. But his semis opponent did his homework.
That was the key factor that made the difference between a howl of triumph and the sting of defeat for Marat Safin. But he gave his heart and soul in the match, as he has in all his matches en route to the semifinals. And with that, Marat accomplished what he set out to do: to defend his title gallantly and go out fighting to the end.
"Excited? I don't think it's very exciting to play against Pete. For sure it is not very exciting. For the people, yes. But for me, to go from one corner to another one, try to take his serve, I don't think is the most beautiful job in the world. That's my job; I have to do this. It's very nice because I am fighting for the place in the semifinal ... But you never know because Pete is the best player in the world. But I will have to work a little bit more…" Last year’s quote from Lisboa was almost prophetic for Marat today.
There were flashbacks to last year’s final in a lot of Marat’s winners today; and nobody could have done better. Pete Sampras just proved to be the better player this time around, he played like a madman and went for broke on his serves as if his life depended on it. In contrast, Marat was cool and calm; but fire proved more dominant than ice this time. No doubt analysts will once again focus on Marat’s defensive approach to the match, how he stayed back in the baseline and didn’t make a try to force more errors from Pete, etc etc; but it was all he could do to return Pete’s furious serves, there was no chance for him to make an aggressive play. Marat displayed the close to perfect form that was his aura going into the finals last year; but Pete this year was flawless with his strategy, a gameplan that relied heavily on his serve.
I must have lost 5 lbs (and got only 50% sleep!) for the last two weeks, cheering Marat on, point by point, game by game, match by match. I suspect I’m more worn out than he is right now! I probably lost another 5 lbs today willing him on just to get a break in!
But instead of crushing disappointment, I feel only immense pride in our man, for the great performance he has given us in an effort to defend his title. I feel completely satisfied, even with his encounter with Pete and the final results. For it undoubtedly proves that although Marat has had an incredibly tough year, slowly and surely he’s gaining back the ground that he’s lost. I have no doubt in my mind that he will go on to win more tournaments, more Grand Slams, and will be back on top in no time.
It was ironic, actually – the tennis world dismissed him, the returning champion, just because he had had a bad year. All the focus was on the past champions – Andre, Pete, and of course Pat Rafter, for whom the US Open may very well have been a swansong. Nobody gave Marat even a fighting chance of defending his title. But Marat just advanced quietly, round after round… and in the 4th round match against Johansson the commentators still refused to take him seriously – "Marat Safin, you are a complete idiot!" after Marat missed "an easy shot"; "Well, to tell you the truth I never even thought he stood a chance to get into the quarters, so I suppose well done for him…"
What people often forget is that Marat is young. Because of his meteoric rise last year, the spotlight was suddenly focused on him. And because of his superlative skills and talent for the game, people – the tennis world, the media, and even us, his fans – suddenly expected so much from Marat. And Marat being the obliging, easy going guy that he is, tried to comply, and perhaps in the process initiated his own burn out.
"The problem is, first of all, I didn't expect that I'm going to fight for No. 1 in the world. I thought at least try to be in Top 20, but now I'm fighting for No. 1. I'm a little bit surprised for myself that I did all these things actually in seven months, since April. Before April, I only win four matches. Next year, it's going to be different. You have to defend. Everybody wants to beat you. How it's possible the young tennis player from Russia can be No. 1? Everybody wants to beat you. Also the people, they expect something more from you. People from Russia see No. 1. Everybody think he got to be there for long time. It's difficult. Pete I think is the greatest player in the world. Nobody is going to be the same like him. It's a little bit different story, but we'll see next year." Quote from the 2000 Masters Cup.
Skills, tactics, strategy, serves and volleys and speed and agility can all be taught and developed; and in a hungry young player they can be developed and owned quickly. What cannot be taught is experience. The oft discussed "Safin mental attitude" and court maturity (or lack of it) is something that can only come with time. In the blinding brilliance of his potential and ability, people tend to forget that Marat is just 21. No other player in the New Balls Please Campaign, (save for Guga, who is already 25), has had so much expectation heaped upon his shoulders. Has anyone ever stopped to think about that? Last year Pete Sampras himself pegged Marat and Lleyton Hewitt as the future masters of the game, but it is Marat who has suffered the heavier burden of pressure and prospect.
This very youth and inexperience began his downslide at the Master’s Cup last year in Lisboa. Nerves, overwhelming pressure and physical exhaustion proved too much for him. But did he learn from his loss in Lisbon? "Yes, I'm learning. That's why I'm here. I have to learn."
" ‘It's difficult also to play because it's coming from the head. Of course, it's coming with the years. When you getting older, you getting better with your head because you start to understand your life. It's a little bit philosophic, I know, but it's true that you getting clever with the years, with the time...As soon as possible is better!’ Marat Safin grapples with the meaning of life in Paris."
Once he’s gathered more experience under his belt, once he’s had time to mature, by learning as he has today, then the mental toughness will follow. And then the Alpha Wolf will truly be deadly.
The 2001 US Open is over for me now, despite the fact that as of this writing, the Men’s and Ladies’ Finals matches have yet to happen. But it will take some time to get down from the high that I’ve been on with Marat these past two weeks. It has been an exhilarating ride; and as I promised before, the actual trophy doesn’t matter. For Marat to come out in the semis and face Pete Sampras once more and put up a good fight – to give his 100% best – that is all anybody can ask from him. And I think he knows this too; his head wasn’t bowed in defeat going out, he didn’t look like a beaten man. Rather he stood tall as a man who had lost the day to a better player, no more, no less. In fact, as the cameras focused on Pete post-match, there was a gray t-shirt that went past Pete and casually nudged him goodbye, and Pete acknowledged the gesture absentmindedly. It was Marat on his way out, and the crowd gave him a good cheer, and he even stopped to sign autographs. Marat should feel – and I think is feeling, –good about his title defense performance; because even if he lost the trophy, he gained a lot of respect today. Pete played like a guy possessed and refused to give up his serve, and Marat had a couple of unlucky breaks (especially the consecutive double faults!!). Despite the final scores and match statistics, that was the only deciding factor. Marat gave his best today.
These two weeks past, Marat has proved himself a true champion with his guts, his courage, and the heart and soul that he poured into his title defense.
Bravo Marat! Well done. I am so immeasurably proud of you!
12-22-2003, 02:55 PM
The Howl Of The Alpha Wolf
Fire and Ice
No other player in contemporary men’s tennis is as volatile as Marat Safin. Nobody can match that fiery temper that erupts like a firecracker and results in smashed racquets and colorful epitaphs in three languages. But the fire is in his game too – in sizzling winners, a powerful serve and the punishing backhand that he is famous for. And the oft-mentioned wit and biting sense of humor draws rapt attention and admiration like moths to an intoxicating flame.
And then there’s the extreme opposite: Marat Safin mentally focused on court is as deadly sharp as a shard of ice. When he’s focused and concentrated, he is the cool fiddler who plays the tune that his opponents dance to on their way to a crushing defeat. Indifferent to the crowds, unmindful of all else save the point at hand, Marat‘s icy control and glacier intensity cracks and breaks the player on the opposite side of the net, all composure and strategy and tactics shattered and blown to smithereens. Prime example: US Open 2000 Men’s Final.
Off court, Marat employs the same tactic in press interviews and news conferences when questions come up that compare him with another player. All joviality is wiped off his face and voice as a wall comes up and he states frostily, “There is no comparison”. In virtually every instance that he is held up for measure against another player, he freezes up and will have none of it. The same cold, adamant pride rears up when he is questioned about playing in Indian Wells and the succeeding claycourt surfaces despite his injuries. And the same icy “it’s none of your business” tone enters his voice when he is asked about his early experiences in Valencia and his present relationship with his mother. Marat Safin gives no excuses, and he doesn’t apologize.
Whichever way he blows, hot or cold, goes back to the same conclusion: passion, intensity, fierce pride, uncompromising independence, and a deep desire for privacy and his space.
Faith and Courage
In the first round of the Cincinnati Tennis Masters, Marat repeatedly kicked the ball, and once even stood still and waited after a particularly high bounce and knocked it back into the opposite court with his head. This prompted the commentators to observe that he really shows great potential and skill for soccer. Hardly surprising, considering that his first dream was to compete in the sport. But he dutifully followed the tide where it would lead him, and accepted his talent for tennis as a blessing, even an unusual means of livelihood: “Playing tennis is my job.” All of which takes great courage – to cheerfully give up one dream and take on another, and to sacrifice and work with a will to realize that dream, especially through the particular roads that Marat has walked to get there.
Then in 2000, Marat became “Employee of the Year”. Perhaps the actual award eluded him at the end in Lisbon, but the journey speaks for itself, and with Marat not even 21 years of age. Suddenly the unassuming, still somewhat awkward, little-known guy from Moscow who never took himself seriously was thrust into the spotlight. From zero to hero in a span of 8 glorious months. That, too, took courage.
But the real test of his courage came after. To take up the burden of the sudden fame, and the requisite expectations and pressures; to shoulder on, coming from an exhausting year into the next one with scarcely a break, takes tremendous guts, strength and determination. But while the soul can endure for as long as it takes, the body has a finite capacity for infinite stress. The body breaks down. The body burns out.
Once again, Marat’s courage comes to the fore as he grits his teeth and plows ahead. Through injury after injury, through defeat after defeat, through more and more speculation and doubts and negative press. True to form, he marches on with his independent spirit intact and through sheer force of will. At the moment Marat Safin is down but he is not out. His pride sees to that, despite the mounting lack of self-confidence and the growing self-doubt. His greatest achievement and biggest challenge awaits – the US Open. And he is determined, win or lose, to defend his title gallantly, or go out fighting to the end.
At this point he must first face what is both his best friend and his worst enemy: faith. For ultimately, injuries notwithstanding, practice or lack of it, training, physical health, mental focus – in the end it all comes down to his belief in himself, his confidence that he can do it. His faith in Marat Safin will determine the quality and the strength of his efforts to put up a worthy fight.
Blood and Gold
This year in Montreal, Marat was booed by the crowd after he retired, facing an impending loss at 5-2 in the second set, with a knee injury. But at Bercy in Paris last year he stubbornly refused to give up the battle even after spilling his own blood in the finals against Mark Philippoussis. Marat literally sweat blood and tears in that unforgettable match, in his bid to win the gold. This is the champion in him, the fighting spirit that refuses to cower, that won’t admit defeat.
The question is: will the sleeping dragon awaken in time to snatch one golden moment for Marat Safin this season? Will Marat step up to the challenge, and face his demons and conquer his fears, enough to pull off a grand coupe, to redeem himself and stun the world once more with a repeat performance of last year’s US Open?
I am Marat’s fan, and I believe in him 110%. Even though I used to feel elation when watching him play and now feel mostly frustrated. Even though I have questions and disappointment and misgivings of my own. I still believe in him. But right now, I state here that he has a 50-50 chance of successfully defending his title. Because in the end, all my faith in him makes no difference out there in the court unless he believes in himself. It could go either way. Hell – the way he’s played hardcourt so far, in all probability he won’t last into the second week. Self-confidence is a huge factor in any undertaking, and it seems that Marat doesn’t feel too good about himself right now.
But here’s the thing, and there’s really no getting around it:
"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of good deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
That apt and wise observation was made by no less than Teddy Roosevelt.
And because Marat will be out there, trying as always, fiery and icy and bravely taking the pressure and his doubts in his hands, because he puts his blood on the line –then the actual gold doesn’t matter. It will just be a bonus. Whether the Alpha Wolf of the US Men’s Tennis Open will howl in magnificent triumph or crushing defeat, the ultimate reality is this: Because Marat dares, he is an unequivocal champion all by himself. Because he dares, Marat is my hero.
12-22-2003, 02:56 PM
Marat Safin Under Pressure
I started following your career early last year, when I watched you defeat the hometown favorite Cedric Pioline at the 3rd round in Roland Garros, and right afterwards you turned around and apologized effusively to the French crowd for having bested their hero. Such an unexpected act, coming from a fresh new face with undisputed power and finesse for the game, arrested my attention.
That’s your trademark, you see – what distinguishes you from all the others who are just as young, just as full of raw talent and unbridled power, just as hungry for a place at the top: what sets you apart, ironically, is your heedlessness to conformity. You won’t be predictable. You refuse to be "tame".
And the most magnetic appeal of it is that it’s not at all contrived; it’s not a switch you turn on and off at will. It’s not a deliberate act to get you noticed. It’s just the way you are; you have always acted – and reacted – with your guts, your heart, and your instinct. You have always been true to yourself, something that either draws people to you like a magnet, or repels them.
This year’s exit at Roland Garros wasn’t quite as graceful as last year’s. I well remember voicing my concerns to fellow fans at the beginning of 2001: that if Marat didn’t take it easy, if he continued to push himself to the limit, he might well find himself facing injuries and physical and mental burn-out before the year even started. In this case, I rue the day my words proved true. Physical exhaustion, injuries, personal problems, and the magnified expectations from the tennis world and your fans must have been a tremendous weight to carry. Suddenly, the tune of the song this year was less – "The great promise of future tennis!" but more often --- "What’s going on with Marat Safin???"
There have been speculations, and stories, and gossip, and analysis. There have been heated debates and nasty arguments. There have been a lot of well-meant advice, as well as just plain censure. There have been ‘I-told-you-so’s’ and ‘it’s-only-a-matter-of-time’, and ‘tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…" Oh yes, Marat, make no mistake about it. The quiet, simple, independent guy before the millennium is now the man everyone is talking about. Everyone has their own opinion, their own theories, their own advice.
After this year’s third round loss to Santoro, the criticism poured in anew. But this time it was different – this time it came from your compatriots, from people who respect the tennis player that you are, and as well, who genuinely like the person behind the tennis star. These people were your friends – and they were saying – grow up!
Now your devoted fans know this very well: who knows better about growing up than Marat Safin? We have recounted the tale over and over again: the story of a dutiful son who went to learn clay court tennis in Valencia, Spain; who tightened his belt and hardened his heart against homesickness and longing for his family and country, all to survive and do what had to be done.
Countless times, we have concluded that these experiences have made a man out of you, that these life lessons of independence and courage of spirit and the will to triumph have matured you beyond your years.
I still believe that.
But I also believe that there are so many levels of maturity, and that there is no such thing as being absolutely mature. Life’s lessons never stop, and the only way not to stagnate is to keep growing. I speak from experience, because I know what it’s like to go from carefree childhood to sober adulthood almost overnight. While there is the satisfaction of being wise beyond your years and the reward of having responsibility and control of your life, the child is never truly lost from you --- there is the undeniable longing to just once let everything go and hang the consequences. There is the occasional bitterness at precious chances lost, the raging against moments that can never be recaptured. There is the grief for what might have been, and an unconscious resentment and rebellion at your present situation. The constant sacrifice and self-denial can take its toll on your soul.
If your fans have pieced the stories together correctly, then the expectations used to come solely from the people close to you. The responsibility you carried, you used to feel you owed only to them. If so, then this year was a thousand fold heavier on your shoulders; with the media, your peers, and your fans, now waiting for your next move. To a young man just 21, coming from a tremendous performance such as you gave last year – with all its attendant glories as well as the brutal physical exhaustion of it; to a simple guy who astonished not only the tennis world but even himself – the pressure must have been overwhelming.
Is it unexpected, is it unreasonable? No. Is it fair to ask so much from a quiet, private young man who just happens to "play tennis for a living"? Of course not. But it goes with the territory. The media had a field day with you last year; you were their new golden boy. Naturally they want more newsworthy stories from you. You rocked the very foundation of the tennis world by systematically annihilating their great champion of the last decade. Of course the tennis world is hungry for more of the same. It’s part of the game. But more than that, it’s a testament to your talent. Louisa May Alcott puts it most succinctly: "You have been blessed with such extraordinary gifts. How can you expect to lead an ordinary life?"
But the very real difference is this. It’s true that your fans expect you to be our hero. Being your supporters, we naturally want good things for you. Being your admirers, we want you to win. But because an integral part of that support and admiration is an elemental respect and appreciation for the total person that you are, we also understand and accept your losses and bad moments as they come. Of course we want every opponent to fall flat on their faces when confronted by your very presence; oh yes, we want that greedily! Of course we expect titles and trophies and glorious triumphs – all the great things that you deserve. Being your fans, we want these things FOR you. But there is not so much pressure, as there is a collected wish from us all for all YOUR wishes to come true.
And you accomplished that last year by following your heart. The magic formula, the secret of your success, the self-confidence and faith in yourself, the mysterious "HOW" of it all fell into place because you were true to yourself. There was no tangible explanation for it, no scientific plan, no detailed course of action you followed on that incredible journey. The map was in your heart, and you followed your instincts to their remarkable end.
This year, with all its setbacks, has been a tougher road to walk. We have seen you struggle to overcome exhaustion, fight to cope with injuries, and make decisions in your career that are purely yours to decide. We have breathed a collective sigh of relief when the unpretentious and experienced Mats Wilander took you under his wing. And from all sides, people who are naturally intrigued by you have been making their own statements. Most of it is puzzlement, some of it is encouragement, and a few are harsh in their frankness. Everyone wants to believe that they hold the key to unlocking the mystery of Marat Safin and the problems he’s faced this year. But perhaps the most significant are the statements coming from the people who really know you and care about you, among them a former coach and a good friend and fellow tennis player.
I take them to be significant because their opinions are based from a genuine knowledge of your game, of your potential, and of your character. I believe they are offered in the spirit of sincerity – these people honestly care about you, and are concerned with your career. Because they, too, realize the one-in-a-million promise in you. I don’t think you even fully grasp it yourself, the unmistakable stamp of a great champion that is yours. For you, it’s like you’re a person on the outside, looking in and wondering what the fuss is all about. Whatever the case, these people see your gifts. So they speak their minds. When they speak of ‘growing up’, I try to take that positively, to mean maturity on a "tennis" level. Maturity concerning a serious dedication & commitment to tennis. Maturity concerning making the decisions that most advance and benefit your career. Maturity to mean looking in the mirror and fully realizing what a rare genius you are, and taking the necessary steps to fully develop and use your talent. Because they recognize your uncommon potential for tennis greatness, and they don’t want that to go to waste. They are just as overwhelmed as anybody with the abilities you possess, and they want you to take full advantage of those abilities. Because those abilities mean the difference between a good tennis player and a legend in the making. But for all that, nobody seeks to take away from any of your achievements. Nobody disputes all that you’ve been through. Nobody denies your right to your private life, and your right to make your own decisions. People respect your need for respect, tennis superstar or not.
So we come to the present, and the next goal in sight is the prestigious Wimbledon Championships. Trusting that you’ve overcome your injuries, and feeling secure and confident with Mats Wilander by your side, we your fans look forward to a great two weeks. As always, we will be hoping that this time we get to see you capture the title. We will be cheering you on, and biting our nails during those tense moments. But if the trophy proves elusive, we will still be there to support you to the next goal in sight. Always we look forward with you. Always we believe. Win or lose. The world of tennis holds no guarantees, especially with this generation of high profile, talented, hungry young players out for a piece of the gold. Save one: the faith that your fans sustain for you. That is the one constant that you can count on. So come June 25th, Marat, put pressure and expectations from your mind. Have only the knowledge that you have the unconditional support of your fans, from all walks of life, of all ages and nationalities. So long as you continue to follow your heart, and to heed the unceasing lessons of life – tennis related & otherwise, and to stay true to the gutsy, wild, unpredictable spirit of Marat Safin that we love so well, you will always be our hero.
12-22-2003, 02:57 PM
MARAT SAFIN: The Missing Link
A boy no longer… a man at last. It is said that a man comes of age when he turns 21. But in the case of one Marat Safin, the journey to manhood started seven years earlier, when he left his family & home behind in Moscow to pursue a dream in Valencia, Spain. The irony is that his original heart’s desire was to play soccer. But after that rebellious streak was tamed with his emerging talent for the game, he now says that he can’t imagine himself doing anything else than playing tennis.
No doubt life taught him its own growing-up lessons, in the experiences of living by himself, alone, independent; of having to budget a fifteen-dollar weekly allowance which has branded into his mind the memory of always being hungry; of having to take responsibility & consequences for his own actions and governing his own will while living halfway around the world, away from the guiding hands of his parents. He had to adjust to a whole new culture, a whole other language, an alien environment, and go through the turbulent experiences of normal teenage life without anybody to depend on but himself. And underlying everything must have been the terrible homesickness of a lonely, frightened young boy – at the tender age of fourteen!
To this day, Marat’s eyes takes on a private, hooded look and his voice becomes low and quiet when he speaks of those formative years of forging the tennis player that he is today. Reechoing time and again in his interviews are his reflections on the difficulty of leaving his family behind at such a young age, and the lessons he learned of independence, and the price you have to pay. These life lessons lend a depth to his character, a heartfelt & simple sincerity that shines through no matter how many dry jokes he cracks or how many racquets he breaks. With Marat Safin, what you see is what you get. Perhaps the more constant presence of the gentle words of a mother and the firm hand of a father could have smoothed out the rough edges a bit more – the side of him that flashes out on the court when he gets frustrated and angry with himself. And more importantly, instilled a greater sense of self – with high confidence and esteem.
But the great charm of Marat is that he is a man who is self-made: he is a rare person who can truly call his soul his own. Whatever measure of a man he is today, is the measure of a character and identity that was hard-fought. Yes, he is impetuous. True, he can be quick-tempered, and impatient with himself, and reckless. And some people say that he parties as hard as he works. But he also has a keen sense of family, an endearing bond and affection for his parents and sister that he takes pride in revealing. He has developed a sharp wit and dry sense of humor to compensate for his inner shyness, and he still has a very down-to-earth attitude despite having tasted superstardom in the past year. He is volatile, and passionate, and a self-confessed romantic. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and he isn’t afraid to bare his soul: he is frank, he speaks his mind, and he has very definite ideas about the world beyond tennis. When asked about the current state of Russia, for example, he flashes back with – "As if you can think, that no one suffer from hunger in the west, that there is no crime and no problems with alcohol and drugs. I was few times in New York and I know very good what Bronx and Harlem is." He has definite opinions about "grown kids living off their parents’ money" (it horrifies him) – hard proof of the lessons of independence. And when asked about his extracurricular activities, he just shrugs it off – "I’m a normal guy. I like to have fun, enjoy myself." A candid answer that must be frustrating to those looking for something to pin him down with. And he still doesn’t take too kindly to advice --- his record with coaches testify to that fact.
21 years ago the gods blessed Marat with talent, good looks, brains and a forceful personality. But the saying goes – it’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it. Marat Safin is 21. The man inside the boy is now the boy inside the man. The question,
tennis-wise, is – will he ever recapture that phenomenal level of performance with which he played last year? That incredible streak of willpower that seemed to say --- don’t give up, you’ve only just begun, just when he was thinking of quitting? Technically speaking, Marat is as perfect as he can get, with the requisite weaknesses, just enough to make him human. The biggest factor in his game is his mental toughness. In 2000, when we breathlessly watched him run down opponent after opponent, win match after match, capture title after title, it was so easy to believe that our guy was invincible, unbeatable. His performance was so awe-inspiring that he garnered praises right and left as "the future of men’s tennis", "the next no.1", "the most improved player". And time and again, Marat made reference to his change in attitude, that he "refused to give Christmas presents". That’s the missing link --- and the biggest factor in Marat’s game --- his self-confidence. For truly, if you feel unconquerable, you win half the battle already.
This year so far, every time he lost a match, it was less because he got beaten than because he played badly – a fact that he freely admits himself. How to recapture that discipline – the attitude which goes into a match with the resolve to "never say die… or if to die, then die trying"? How to take back that self-esteem, that pure belief in self that lends precision, speed, and deadly power in the tennis court? Nobody says that Marat has to win everytime; and it is even more unrealistic to expect him to bring home every trophy in every tournament he plays in. But I think it’s safe to say that we all miss our determined, valiant, almost arrogantly sure-of-himself Marat, the one who promised to fight. The one sure thing is that nobody can turn Marat around as only he himself could. Only Marat can ever boss Marat.
But here’s hoping that with his friends, his family, and of course, his fans’ well-wishes, support and love, Marat will find the strength to take up the ‘burdens’ of his birthright and fulfill his destiny. Marat, you’re a little wiser now, a little more mature, and just now, perhaps, a little more humbled. Nevertheless, here are my wishes for you:
dreams to aspire to
hands to guide you
love to inspire you
and all the success, triumphs and trophies
that are yours for the taking
if you only believe enough in yourself
because I sure do.
…just keep a little bit of the boy inside you – it is such a part of your charm.
12-22-2003, 02:57 PM
An Open Letter To Marat Safin
Dear Marat, Bravo. You have had an incredible year, made all that much sweeter considering that you had thought about quitting back in Miami. Aren’t we all lucky that you gave it another shot! Since your first win at Boston, all through the tournaments that you played in, down to that big win in Toronto then on to that even more incredible victory at the US Open, and all the events en route to the Masters Cup --- you gave us, your fans, an incredible show. It’s been such a thrill for me just watching you play & sharing the highs and the lows of all your matches. You may still have your doubts, Marat, but I already know what a great champion you’re going to be.
But I also see the champion now, in your growing maturity, determination & confidence, your respect for the other player, and the way you’re learning all the time. Hell – you already have all the weapons of a champ – your power, your big serve, your solid baseline game on any surface, your determination to fight back. And you have youth on your side as well. Not quite the seasoned champion yet, but you’ll get there, I’m sure of it. During the last few months, the pressure must have been – and still is – tremendous. Sometimes keeping your place at the top is a hell of a lot tougher than the climb to get there. The only weakness I can see is your tendency to get angry with yourself and lose concentration on the match. Why not try repeating to yourself – “Keep cool, focus, just return the ball.” Don’t let your bad feelings show too much, because your opponents will always be quick to take advantage of that. I’m no coach; just a girl who’s watched your matches this year, and that is what I’ve observed. Think positive! But I have no doubt that you are destined for great things, Marat. Just continue believing in yourself, as so many of your supporters believe in you. We enjoy the quality you bring to the game – the smooth, powerful moves, the colorful personality, the witty humor, and the rush of adrenaline just watching you play. I especially appreciate what I call your “court-ly” manners: how you go the extra effort to put loose balls to the side within easier reach of the ballboys & ballgirls; how you walk up and take the towel & not just point for it, and afterwards you hand it back to them instead of just tossing it over your shoulder. Most people only see the rackets you break and the balls you kick & they don’t realize it’s just your frustration with yourself. But you show immense courtesy & consideration for all the people on the court, including your opponent, and I like that. I also like your humility, and how you don’t take yourself seriously – you don’t have any “star attitude” at all! You’re just an ordinary guy playing tennis, and doing his job. I respect you all the more for that. I respect your incredible talent for the game, I admire your lion’s courage and your brave fighting spirit, and I salute your down-to-earth attitude. To me, Marat Safin, you already have the heart & soul of a champion.
You are my hero.
Bravo! Mucho amore ,
12-22-2003, 02:59 PM
Thoughts after watching Davis Cup finals
Moving swiftly, noiselessly, a foot slides, halts and then pivots. A sharp, short sound and the ball whizzes over the net, homing in inexorably to the tip of the backhand down the line corner. Stride breaking off in denial, the Frenchman stops and stares. A hushed silence and then a roar. There on the red clay of Bercy a drama is created. Red for earth, red for heart, red for the blood that beats through the sinews of the mad, astonishing genius.
The world is pandemonium; all shouts, whistles and waves. The giant from Russia, architect of this chaos, walks unmoved, serene. Few bounces of the ball, synchronous, smooth lift of the arms, graceful arch of the back and a service winner of unholy velocity is delivered. Walk to the chair- relaxed, confident and unhurried. “ Why the surprise?” it seems to question those in attendance. “ This is my world, my place. I rule here. You should know.”
Man? Human? A stir of suspicion enters the minds. “ Who of mortal abilities can play like that? Big and yet he moves so quickly; and look, hardly any effort and the ball seems to acquire such frightening speed! Hours of duel- but fatigue? Where is it?!!”
They should be afraid. The outcome is inevitable. The colossus with the deceptively gentle face is about to bring a death knell to their aspirations.
Granted of a subterranean and mysterious source of strength, Safin seems to rule Bercy. Power flows from the court, an awakening spell if you will, stirring the dormant force in this man. It is as if every atom of that place has pledged its allegiance to him. “We will give thee victory if that is what thee desires.”
Outside, in the bright glare of Parisian afternoon, he is mortal once more- a tired and slightly unsure young man of charm and inexplicable vulnerability.
What happened to you in there Marat? Do you even know?
You were not human. You were infinite. You were the best player in the world and even heavenly forces could not have stemmed the tide of your will. Or perhaps, that is the answer. Was it the heavenly force that transformed you into such an awe inspiring being? Or maybe, as I suspect, there within you, resides an entity of measureless ambition and ability, just needing that spark to manifest and reign.
What brings forth that force to bear, I wonder?
Is it your name- Marat- the French revolutionary, Paris of course belongs to you!
Is it the place- France, which seems to have such an affinity for you?
Perhaps it is the surface-clay! Memories of Spain, never to be forgotten!
Or is it the cause that stirs you, a mission of majesty, bigger than you?
“ For Russia!” “For my teammates!” “For all those waving the Russian flag in the stands!” Or perhaps for that time, you cease to exist and transform into this collective strong need for victory. “Not Marat Safin, just this Russian with a dream for his country!” “Not I, WE!” “Not alone, never alone here. A comrade guards my back. A friend watches over me.” Strength transmitted across terrain, from Moscow to Paris, love of Rodina, the motherland!
I wonder, is that what is needed to see you soar, set free that incomparable talent?
A cause to fight for, a battlefield to bleed in…
What of Marat Safin? Are his personal ambitions so insignificant?
There is nobility in pursuing success I assure you, even personal success. Were not the lost guided by the lone star in the sky!
In Moscow, a child with hopes watches your ascent. Perhaps he can follow you some day. Furtively, the Russian émigré in Paris watches you walk with nonchalant confidence. Tonight he has a tale to tell. His small son listens attentively. “Not so strange to be Russian,” he thinks, “I am different, but that is good.”
In a ragged little clay court in Niece, a young man dives to return the ball. Ball touches the tape and after an agony of suspense falls gently on the other side. Bruised and caked with dirt the young man smiles. “Just like Safin!” he exclaims.
“I seek life.” I have heard you say. “Reality is outside the court.”
So it is.
New view- is that what you are looking for, really? Will not a new pair of eyes suffice?
Can not Tennis give you that?
The path to Tennis greatness is harsh. Wins-losses, blistered feet and callused hands, sometimes prize worth a million dollars and sometimes, nothing. Pain will follow ecstasy and days of no confidence will intersperse times of near invincibility. Right there, in that pursuit, laid out before you, for you to savor, rich beyond measure, gripped between many extremes, you will find Life.
Compelled by the sheer wealth of your experience, you will change. Your eyes will see a new world. It may surprise you; astound you even to find out that, that is what you were looking for all along.
Give this game your heart Marat. Set your dreams free.
Discover greatness. Discover life.
12-22-2003, 03:00 PM
The stage was set, the crowd was out.
For a fight between the King and the man with doubts.
"No chance for the usurper, he is too callow.
Glorious is our King's past the Others' too shallow !"
But on that day, the wise were wrong,
It was end of Great Peter for the Russian was strong.
Handsome, young, gifted and sweet.
This man from East , was the champion to beat.
"Hail the crown prince ! Ready for the throne !
Make way Great Peter, for the successor is born !"
They marveled at his skill and speed.
He can rule, yes indeed !
The season was late, the year's end approaching.
Can he win again and beat the New Year encroaching ?
To take the crown of the world's best.
The Russian had no time to waste.
Marat Safin , for that was his name.
Gathered his resolve and played his game.
Win and win and win and another
He was the best , there was no other.
But wait ! here is the man from Brazil.
He ruled the summer and he could win still.
It came down to the very last fight.
Tired Safin, fought with all might.
He had fought too long and too hard.
Nothing left to win that one last start.
Brazilian won with a stupendous show.
Dealt Safin's dreams a terrible blow.
Two years have passed since that battle.
The once eager Prince has lost his mettle.
Defeats linger where victories should be.
No end in sight ,wherever he can see.
He comes so close and yet he loses.
He gives it all yet unwisely he chooses.
Still young, but so full of doubt !
Of his ability to win the bout !
Can this man be given another chance ?
A whiff of victory, a Winner's glance ?
Can he be taught to again aspire,
For all that he dreamt of and does desire ?
How can he find that peace of mind ,
The winner's intensity, the fate that is kind ,
The will to compete and fight a hard fight,
And confidence to set everything right ?
He feels time, the ever marching enemy !
Oh, with what he has left, what will he be !
Is it his fate to always suffer ?
Weep in despair, never recover ?
At this life's crossroads, he is standing still.
A safe road back or road of peril ?
A disappointing end or chance to glory,
That may come with hell and fury !
This dilemma will forge his character.
What he chooses will deliver,
A pale shadow or a ruler to last,
A man of future and conqueror of past.
Here and now we wait,
To see what he does with baited breath.
He is special, if only he can see !
Imprisoned in his mind, when he has the key !
Silly man ! Everything is in his hands !
The wins , the losses and the rule of land.
If only his belief was strong !
He would be happy and do no wrong .
Belief ! Such a nebulous entity !
So few have it, such is the pity !
You can move mountains, and part the blue sea.
If you just believe, that's how it should be.
8/31/02 -4: 25 am in the morning , could not sleep and so…..
I had not written a poem in so long , this was a complete surprise . Nothing fancy but I thought with my penchant for "melodrama", I should perhaps stick to verse rather than prose ;-D
12-22-2003, 03:01 PM
June 30, 2002
I have never met Marat Safin, I have as a matter of fact never even seen him play in a tournament as a spectator. I have however watched every televised match and read most of the news about him. I can therefore claim, in small measure a little bit of familiarity with him.
I love Tennis. This is the only game in the world where highs are like being in heaven and lows make you feel the depths of despair hard to imagine. Watched by screaming thousands, you fight your battles alone. There are no coaches beside you, there are no team mates, there are no timeouts or substitutions. One point can mean an end of a dream. Defeats can sap you dry like Pete Sampras or send you into a self destructive tailspin like John McEnroe. There are very few like Jim Courier who battle the smallness of their talent and by sheer will and heart carve out a name in history.
The talent like Marat Safin-, huge , awesome and effortless then is to be cherished.
He plays the spinning backhand stab volley with the same effortless ease as his sweetly hit forehand. Everything flows, everything comes from a higher plane on the day his mind is in sync with his abilities. His game goes to a magical place with a scary naturalness where other champions are rarely able to go.He has the physical ability to create magic on the court like no other.
Sampras has said that he is perhaps the best returner of serve he has faced. Courier has echoed this recently. McEnroe two years ago implored ATP to not waste this prodigious talent, this personality. Kafelnikov has said that Marat will be as big as he wants to be, there are no limits for him.
The question then is - What does Marat want ?
Two years ago at the age of 20 , when the self realization hit him after winning the US Open , that he can be world no one (Read his interviews in Sept/Oct/Nov),he set out on a most ambitious and grand quest. He wanted to be world no 1, he wanted to be great, and in a span of three months he had captured five titles. He lost that quest narrowly. But what was exposed was the inner drive, the ambition and the an astonishing ability to focus single mindedly towards his dream . Tired, limping, bleeding forehead (Paris indoors)…nothing mattered. He worked through pain and exhaustion and came close, so close. I believe he was the only man ever to have captured so many titles in such a short time.
Right now , two years later he is a leader in Champion's race for now.He has done generally well this year. But he has hardly done anything special. Two years ago , he would have won the Australian Open- he would have found a way to raise his game because he really, really wanted it. Ditto for the Wimbledon.This year suddenly he is happy to do well but not spectacular. Question then is does he really WANT to be Great?
Or phrased differently- to be THE BEST in the world (not one of the best) requires sacrifice- ( mind you,with his natural athletic ability/size and raw talent what he will have to sacrifice will be much lesser than say Hewitt )-Is he willing to pay the price to be the Greatest and the Best ? There are some like Wilander, Lendl, Courier who know this instinctively. There are some like Agassi who get compared to a donut first (Mary Carillo called him a donut in 1992 -all the stuffing around but with a hole in the middle- alluding to the hollowness of Agassi's work ethic ) and later mentally mature to be a great champion. Of course it helped that there was a lot of hurt ego/pride involved when he saw Sampras/Courier surge ahead. There are some like Phillippousis who have to face career threatening injuries before they realize how brief their time to shine in the sun is.
Patrick McEnroe says that if Safin ever developed drive like current Agassi, he will win 10 slams at least. Malvai Washington concurs.
Safin by all accounts is a very self aware and bright guy. (I quote John McEnroe here)I am pretty sure he knows that having "fun" to the extent that he is having fun and being a "champion" , playing with guys who may not have his talents but have his dreams are mutually exclusive things. He can have some fun but he also needs to focus on his games. I am not sure that he is willing to let go of one for the other. That is only going to happen if he really, really wants it. If being THE BEST in Tennis really matters to him to the extent that it becomes a DRIVING NEED -it stirs him enough, to change his current state of comfortable contentment. He is young- he should not be this content. He should be restless enough to want to explore the outer limits of his potential.
He is accused of a fragile mind. And this year he has been playing key matches as if he has a fragile mind. But two years ago, when he wanted to , as a 20 yr old kid , he was steel - pure steel. Bottom line is, he is mentally much tougher than he is given credit for. He may have the laid back personality of a Hawaiian surfer, out to catch the next wave, but he also has the ability to hit lunging, diving forehand matchpoint pass on the fourth set breaker against Pete Sampras in Australia (2002) in front of thousands of hysterical fans. I am quite sure that he can ride the pressure of being a champion pretty well .
All of us, his fans, desperately want him to succeed. There are no physical limits to his potential. But even we, with all of our combined prayers cannot fight his battles for him. At the end of the day, when his career is done , he is the one who will have to face the man in the mirror and look him in the eye..
If he is happy where he is now, then that is great- he can play as he has been playing. At the end of the day , the only thing that you want is , No Regrets- no looking back. In Tennis,there are only 5-6 yrs when you can dominate; then the time, places and circumstances take their toll on you and you make way for someone else.
12-22-2003, 05:30 PM
Ami and Isabelle are amazing! :worship: Beautiful work! :)
Thanks for posting it here Andrea! :kiss:
12-28-2003, 09:37 PM
RECRIMINATION AND RESOLUTION
It is amusing to consider,
Not by a gale wind or a lightning strike
But by a damned wrist
Forever injured, unkissed
Will the Hero fall.
Achilles in new role?
Angry laughter escapes me
A follower of this flawed life.
How cleverly I pick
The lost and the weak!
As I mourn unashamed
At the vagaries of fate.
But who is lost?
Who is weak?
Tears so profuse
With value of refuse
A corrosive cynicism
So little faith in one
who I so loftily placed!
I dread to admit
It is I who lack grit
To be so easily swayed.
Heartbroken and dismayed.
Not too high, not too low, Wise said.
A state comfortably suspended.
Not so dark and jaded.
Not easily persuaded
Clear eyed worldview.
Probing gently, what’s true?
To the one with mythical wound
Lord does bestow with reason.
Perhaps this is not your season.
Meant are you to learn some more.
Be a clever man at twenty-four.
I promise not to label,
Villain, Hero, Afraid and Brave.
We are all and all are we.
A gift of malleability.
Free to make what we will.
React to what we feel.
I think fondly of your game
And wait patiently to see it once more.
I live the moment that I am in
Why fear what’s unseen?
And strive to remember.
Nothing ever lasts forever.
12-28-2003, 09:44 PM
Analyse`s of Marat`s game(serve, volley) --->
12-28-2003, 09:44 PM
:worship: The last part... amazing!
12-30-2003, 07:55 PM
Thanks Andrea! I like the serve sequence the best. I could watch that serve all day...what beautiful motion! :hearts:
01-04-2004, 12:18 AM
some articles written by DELFINA :worship:
What Marat serve means
Is like a wave coming, when he rises his arms to the sky and archs the body in a perfect elegant movement till he makes contact with the ball, and then hits it and then suddenly, like a fire, a flash crossing the court stuns the opponent with its velocity and unknowen direction. Tennis observers say that Marat and Sampras´s serves are the best at disguising the ball direction to their opponent. Then, in an instant, a star falls down and we can´t see it, can´t prevent the place where the ball could be at the end and it go so fast that we cannot see the movement either. We must rewind the tape and following the ball with our eyes carefully and then we notice where it finally arrives! For that reason Marat has in one movement a stylish, powerful and efficient shot! Sometimes it is an ace, sometimers it is just only the start of a celebration for our senses.
If his first service works we will see a fast, intelligent and dominant player on court making fantastic shots crossing all over the court surface from corner to corner on the lines till he finishes the point with his wonderful paralell backhand just with a simple and easy turne of his shoulders. Or mybe we see an unpredictable drop shot going to the net from the baseline or even a surprising forehand never immagined before he did it. How it was possible, we think ? And if his first service doesn´t work we saw a soft, beautiful second service and after a slow wave-movement Marat begins to build the point with intelligence and imagination at same time. He has two different manner to start the game, with a faster powerful invisible shot or with a softy one. But if the firt serve doesn´t end in an ace, which are only a partion of his serves percentage, the wave-movements just begin a colorful and amazing game.
During the Wimbledon QF match where Marat faced Goran Ivanisevic, the reporter, a former champion, exclaimed in a funny way:
"Sirs, Ladies, kids, if you believe seen this that tennis game is an easy game, it isn´t at all!! Is just easy for Safin, he can do what he wants and whenever he wants!Don´t prove you to do the same!".
And Marat was losing and just showing us a little of his fantastic game, glimpses of his brilliance and talent under pressure and when Goran let him play!
Yes, that´s it, when he adds to the power and beauty of his serve a consistent, strong, fast and woderful baseline game as he only know to do, our party is complete. Fortunately he is not an ace-makers like those players that base his game on the eficcacy of just one shot, the serve and the possibility to do aces all during the match halting the performance the spectator came to see. This kind of tennis game, the ace-makers game, begun to change the spectacle of tennis matches since 1970´s Ivan Lendl era. The serve became, with every passing day, more and more important and was the dominant shot on the men´s circuit, making only efficacy and results the main goals of tennis game. This was also commented on by the reporter during Wimbledon QF again. This former champion said because of his kind of ace-makers game we, the spectators, were obligated to turne our attention to women´s tennis to find more variety and less monotonie on the game, to again find more compelling and appealing tennis.
So the ace-makers begun to make the spectacle of watching men´s tennis increasingly boring, with the game being constantly interrupted and re-started all the time the same shot again and again! When the first Sampras reaches to the circuit we were a little refreshed because his technique and movements were so elegant and powerful and enjoyable to watch! But he begun to reduce his game more and more to serve and volley, so he also made it to the boring list. Then when the New Balls campaign arrived we were able to see a little more colorful playing and game variety in Lappentti, Norman, Guga, Ferrero, Grosjean. But always we noticed that when one player was really good on the baseline he use to be less powerful on the serve, or if he use to be a good clay player his game wouldn´t work on hards courts.
That´s why when Marat came he was a shock into the circuit, like an hurrican moving and re-moving as a revolutionary all the habits! I always remember the moment when I saw him for the first time. I´ve always been a tennis lover, and although a little boring was floating all over the circuit, I was there watching tennis every opportunity I had. Well, it was the Toronto Tournament 2000, and I was seated in front of the TV with this little bit of tedium that assaults us when we can predict what we are going to see but even with these poor expectativs I was there anyway. Then I turne on the TV at hour of the transmission schedule and suddenly saw a player all in black playing as I never have seen before, it´s was just a stunning image showing up, all my tennis desires becoming reality, and i begun to scream to my son: "Come on, come on to see this player, he is fantastic!" That´s it, we need to share such amazing spectacle: Marat playing tennis! I saw, from that very moment variety and beauty, power and surprise, velocity and touch, agressiveness and such a style! I saw Marat! And I immediately know that he was a unique and special player, and the only one that could continue Sampras´s dominance of the circuit but bringing to tennis game again all the color, variety and imagination we have lost in past years. And added to a devastating power! Unbelievable, I thought with great pleasure, at last!
As the days passed I saw him winning in Toronto, playing the Indiannapolis finals and at last winning his first Grand Slam with his historique game against Sampras on september 10 in Flusing Meadows court. We have talked enough about this amazing Marat match but what I observed there ever since the first day i saw him was not only ae confirmation of my first impression but an increasing certainty that we are in front of a player of his generation. John Mc Enroe and all other tennis glories had said the same. We have not only the wave-movement that his serves begins on court with his service but the fantastic returne on the opponent´s serve that means the continuity of the game or the end of it with an amazing shot no one could return! He is also a wonderful player on all surfaces. After I found him I went back time to time to watch footage from the Toronto Tournament to his first 2000 cup and I saw him playing fantastic game on Barcelona and in Hamburg clay courts, and now having watched what Wimbledon 2001 brought us, we can see that Marat will be a future grass court champion as well, eventhough he has made fun about this with his habitual intelligent humor. He can´t see himself wininng Wimbledon! He smiles and tell the people not bet on him! But he has improved a lot on this surface and his run in the QF showed to even be a surprise to Marat. And when he comes totally back into form, working out this hard year plenty of problems and injuries, he will also do a great Wimbledon, we are sure of that. Because he has not displayed all his potential, he has showed a little and it so amazing that we can´t beleive it. And it´s so wonderful that we can´t wait for the rest, of Marat´s complete and totally stunning game! But we´ll wait and enjoy step by step what he is doing on the courts from the serve to the hand-shake over the net.
Because who could ask for more from a tennis player? This is just what all good tennis lovers want: to see the game that starts the moment Marat begins his wave- unpredictable- movement on a tennis court.
01-04-2004, 12:20 AM
Why Marat can be n.1 for many years
The sky is slowly getting out and sounds going into mute. The words of which few minutes ago were fighting on court "like lions" (Marat own words) are fading away. But their echoes remain in our minds like vivid pictures of the past. There's a few here and a little think over how they are telling us about strong presence of Marat in tennis circuit.
**Pete Sampras saying after US Open 2000 final, "I never saw before someone who could play so well for so many time", and he continue now speaking about Marat with respect and a bit of scare
**Cedric Pioline, back ago on time, with the words "I was able to survive" after beat Marat in RG98 QF, and our player was only a teen-ager, only 18 years old!
**Juan Carlos Ferrero after Barcelona 2000 final saying : "Today I wasn't tired, but he (Safin) hit the ball so hard and so fast that I couldn't reach them." .
**For Dominik Hrbaty after Saint Petersburg 2000 it was getting worse: "He started hitting the ball so hard that I lost my timing. I just couldn't keep the ball in front of me."
**Happiness of Arnaud Di Pasquale after his victory in Monte Carlo 2001 over Marat injured and having a bad season begin, saying "Before the match I said to myself 'I hope I'm not going to be pulverized'. I was scared because a mediocre Safin remains 1,000 times better than a mediocre Di Pasquale".
**In Lisbon Masters the winner Guga Kuerten saying "I wished play the final against him".
These words mean something really relevant. As the fact of fourth Grand Slams 2000 winners were André Agassi, Pete Sampras, Guga Kuerten and Marat Safin. Even this chronological order of winners means the same thing.
It means Marat is really a new, powerful and different force going into the circuit as a hurricane and that he will finally be the last winner.
Look at the word "pulverized", how much threatened could be Marat presence on court like a force which mixes talent and power in such special and amazing way as we have never seen before, letting the rivals stunned without responses. And he is only 21 years old, a true great champion just growing up, maturing all his abilities, his talent and his power slowly to be the enormous champion he can be. Guga, the finally 2000 number 1, a fighter with talent too, showed in his own words, which is the really opponent to win. He came from a victory against Sampras and was going to face Agassi, but he wanted Marat to be there.
Let drawing a map of the circuit analyzing why Marat is the new unexpected force of actual tennis, who can be number 1 and remain on the top for many years.
1. On the gray zone there are disciplined workers and fighters (from Agassi to Hewitt) which could improve step by step an increasing variety of shots, reaching with tenacity a consistent and hard game which can lead them to a lot of goals.
2. On the green zone there is a high power-talented player of serve and volley game. That's Sampras and that's the reason why he could never win Rolland Garros. There are here other less important but good players of serve and volley game, with more or less efficacy and talent (Rafter, Henman, Gambill).
3. On the black zone as big back hole there are good tremendous only server players (Rusedsky, Phillippousis) and good serves with more baseline consistent game (Johansson, Schalken).
4. On the orange zone there are good baseline players. On orange part-1 ones with a hard game reaching different values of efficacy (Hrbaty, Corretja, Clement, Squillari, Grosjean). On orange part-2 there are the talented ones with some kind of net game and in a long variety from more to less power values (Kafelnikov, Norman, Ferrero, Federer, Moya, Lapentti, Ríos, ).
Some players of this map will be disappeared in a few years (Sampras, Agassi, Rafter, Kafelnikov). Some others are stabilized on a level or could reach a little more efficacy or variety with practice and effort, but we know they have a limit they never would be able to go through. Some others are growing up facing a good future promise but also we can see on them a kind of top-limit, as we could glimpse the way and the end of their development. As we were knowing the different draws of movements their bodies are able to do. As we were knowing the design of the last picture.
5. On the final zone going to the top, the red one, there are only two players.
On the low level part red zone, there is Guga Kuerten. An excellent player which mix talent and power, has a consistent game and a so strong mind of champion with experience and balance, despite how much we can like or not his game. But he is a clay specialist although he had beaten Marat in Indianapolis final. They have in the past very tough five sets matches with a lot of tie-breaks on them. Marat won the first (RG 98 and Aussi Open 99), Guga won the last (Hamburg, Indianapolis). But Marat was so close to the victory these both times too and Guga is 24 years all. Three years in a tennis career mean so many time, on this stage of maturity almost half life.
So we can say that on the high level part red zone there is only Marat, the new force to which the rest are afraid of. An they are right. We know Marat had only showed a bit of he could be, and it is right now so much and so powerful delicious, that we can't wait for the rest. He can reach unexpected levels.
Listen what have said the reporter watching Hamburg 2000 final: "But from 1-3 down Safin played near perfect tennis, and came within two points of winning his first (set)" And the rival: "This was for sure the best final in the Tennis Masters Series this year," said Gustavo Kuerten after his three-hour 52-minute victory over Marat Safin."
When Marat could get a little more strong mind and balance and could display all his game we will see him reigning on the circuit for many years. Because if at this moment we have seen already a different, special and unequal tennis player which reach an exquisite mix of power and talent in a high quantity levels, till where will he arrive? When did you see before a player with so high power and so high variety talented game at same time? This is what he showed and we know it's only a beginning. He can be a faster demolition, we can't see the ball reaching the lines and only see his elegant easiest body movements. He can be a killer fire and then immediately an exquisite player leaving a drop shot falling down slowly over the net after returning another fired shot. He can hide the ball direction when he is almost hitting it and he can predict the return movement and feel the ball before reaching to his racquet. He can move so quickly reaching so impossible shots, when he attacks and when he defends, suddenly without announce when the opponent thinks the ball wouldn't return it is there faster and harder. He can prepare and play patiently baseline points and then be unpredictable, quick improviser without strategy. He can play with imagination, intelligence, elegance and a devastating power at same time. How we can ask for more? Watching his splendid backhand going far to a parallel passing in a winner shot or right there on the line corner an unexpected forehand flashing us. Oh, what amazing player is Marat! When his game is on his high level of brilliance (and we know he showed only half part of his potential), which player on the circuit could beat him? If we think Ferrero reaching a top level last week must to struggle hard to win Barcelona final because of Moya service... We know Marat service and power is really stronger than Moya´s. Well, there´s only Guga then. I'm sure we will watch a lot of fantastic matches between these two players, power versus power. But we will have the last smile, cause Marat reaching a little bit more balance will show his shining superiority. With his ups and downs, nerves, heart and temper always but with a little bit stronger mind and a little more maturity, Marat can reign for so many years on this decade of tennis professional circuit, amazing us every time, giving us enjoy, surprise, emotion and powerful pleasure as we never got in tennis world.
01-04-2004, 12:22 AM
Marat is slowly getting back!
The dominant player on hardcourts is slowly getting back on the right track. He's working out his problems, his pains and injuries from the first half of this hard year. His beginning of the hardcourt season in the States at the LA Tournament was just a symbol of what he can do and will surely do. With the authority of a real champion and a brilliant game he beat the new American tennis sensation, Andy Roddick. On September 10 of last year he atonished the entire tennis world with his amazing victory at the USOpen final in straight
sets over the great champion Pete Sampras. On 24 July 2001 in the first round of LA tournament he beat the star of the newest generation of American tennis players. So this win is like a symbol saying : It's Marat time now! He's just growing faster in the center of the tennis circuit, reigning between the old generation and the new. He deserves this! His incredible talent and his battles against adversity; his efforts to develop this talent in an obligated loneliness needed for another series of wins; he is being reborn and slowly raising his wings. We know we definitively need Marat on the courts, because his magical game turns on a light more powerful and warm than the light of the sun. At same time he has other extraordinary qualities: easy, elegance and quickness like starlight travelling in dark space! Like a magician, he prepares in a few seconds imprevisible movements with his body and makes shots in directions that no one knew exisited until he made them! "What strategy? Not strategy" he answered to Charly Rose in an interview after his USOpen win,"Just take the right decision on the right moments". We need this kind of intelligence, surprise and imagination in men's tennis today! We love these qualities. Our senses are thankful for being witness to them and to this amazing
spectacle on the tennis court!
Not all people in the tennis world recognize his uniqueness, although, some have noticed what a unique and special a player Marat is. His opponents notice this,the former champions too. John McEnroe's words in the USOpen preview and the solidly secure attitude of Mats Wilander following Marat to be his coach,are great signs of that knowledge. "I don't think Mats is doing it for the money. He thinks I can be a great player", said Marat in an interview in June with the Telegraph Magazine answering the voices which intend to cloud what is indeed so clear. A kind of envy leads these voices, a blindness to Marat's unique style and amazing ability. He is highly intelligent
on and off the courts, he has too much style. The everyday media and most of the people never praise his brilliance. For instance, the Wimbledon organization sent him to play on 18 court. Amazing, considering he was seeded second at this Grand Slam!! He couldn't play on wide and large central court until he reached the QF and this, as he explained so clearly, was against his game: his
mind and eyes had difficulty adjusting to the new measures of court, in terms of finding his timing and presicion. But never mind, even with these conditions he would make great shots and returns, and was beaten only by the aces Goran Ivanisevic served his way: Ivansievic was the champion two days after. Marat, always funny and direct at his meetings with the press, spoke about the attitude of the Wimbledon organization in the following fashion:"I never saw him (Arnaud Clement,the next opponent for fourth round) play on grass, actually. I don't know. We'll see day after tomorrow how it will go. But I don't think he's a grass court specialist - me either. Is okay. They can put us on Court 18 again, no spectators. We can make some good match like clay courtstyle."
Never mind if he has just lost to Xavier Malisse in the second round and he that cannot win this LA tournament. He may win the next or the tournament following that. We must wait for him. The importan thing is that he has presented, again, his stylish and devastating power. And it's an important thing to show to those who have accosted him during the last few months with the advice he doesn't ask for, because he was there with his coach working hard, focusing consistently to get through these bad times. Again honest, clever and respectful of the jobs and the decisions of other players he demonstrated this
respect at one of the press conferences at Wimbledon. He was asked precisely about what possible advice he might give to Andy Roddick, the new star who Marat just beat on LA on July 24: "I don't give advices. I mean, it's his life, he has a coach. I am nobody to give advice to anybody. I think he's great player, that's for sure.
It's not secret. I think everybody knows that he going to stay in Top 10 for a long time. I mean, is not a new thing. He just has a coach. He doesn't need anything else. I think the coach, he knows what to do." Why can't all people have the same respectful attitude about Marat's job and work and decisions?? Why can't these people pay back a healthy and honest attitude in the same right way??
Never mind again: Marat, the great champion, is coming back. Slowly but surely, working hard to achieve his goals. He just needs time and stable support. He is working his way back in this second year after his major explosion onto the men's circut. This is a hard year full of troubles for him. If he can't make it this year, he will the next, how he with a wise phylosophy of life said everytime he could to the press. And we are sure that soon his creative and absolute power will reign again and it will be seen on tennis courts all over the world. Just as brilliant and as fast, and solid and elegant, it's only easy for him with his game of fine touch and devastating power. And
soon he will raise his arms aloft with a cup again, with his terrific shy smile, the smile of a great and unforgettable champion lasting forever in our memories. As we said before Marat make us winners!! We know we always will have the last large smile thinking of all of the wonderful qualities we see in him: great game, great heart, great mind, great soul.
01-04-2004, 12:24 AM
Paradoxical Marat way
Marat, as always we use to name him with truely love and admiration, seems to be right now in a really hard crossroads. Naturally gifted by a rare and brilliant talent to play tennis which his parentes order him to develop, and also naturally inclined to wishing in all its possible meanings freedom and independence, he faces at this moment of his short but incredible career, standing up of his 21 years old, hardly times to take important decisions to his future life. These decisions have to do with a torturing paradoxe: the only world who promises him for ever the wished freedom and independence is tennis world. A jail building on responsabilities, pressure and pressure wich lot a stress for to be on the top answering all the expectations carry on his young shoulders. A jail who mixe fame, adulation and money with people who wants profite and benefits, who hide cheating or envy or treason. A jail of lonliness in reach hotel´s suites with tellephones callings and a crowd over there expecting for a Marat piece. A jail with a million voices : the press and the people accosting him and changing their mind from one place or moment to another, thinking "he sacks" or calling him "miserable" when he loses, "king" or "zar" when he wins. A jail of a million eyes watching his life: if he goes to sleep early the night before the match, if he is out with a women, if he smokes, if he trains enough, if he is a very russian or not , if, if. Million censor eyes watching and watching "every move you make" like the Police´s song. A jail which packs the fantastic experience of travelling with a boring rutine getting a very few moments off. That´s because Marat facing the next 5 years (the time-limit he puts on his career) can use the word "torture" But the clever and clear mind he has doesn´t doubt: "Oh, nothing is shining for me away from tennis" . A little bitter answer to one russian reporter which shows him going in double directions: he doesn´t want a couch, he knows he needs a couch, he wants his life, he can´t have it without losses. Once he said during USOpen, that all his possible couches have anything else to do, so nobody could travel with him: "So nobody wants me!" said laughing. I always thougth that a kind of sadness were behind this joke, because he is so independent (I think he is the only player who had no couch with him) but he seems so alone too out there on the court.. Another time he said he cannot admits the kids who live of money´s parents, and he certainly realize that tennis is there to get him its own economic independence. Looking much older than he really is, he ever seemed to know certainly what he wants, now he just knows how much it cousts! How much prisoner of the rules of the sports media stars system he is, how much has he to fight for freedom and independence in the only world that gives it for him into a golden jail shape. And he doesn´t want prison, he doesn´t like bodygards.
Matts Wilander said once that all in tennis has to do with imagination and phantasy. We are talking about game now: I think Marat really knows about it, and we have to thanks him the lot of fun and pleusure he can give to us just playing tennis and beeing the great persons he is: nice, glamorous, intelligent, sensitive, polite and honest at same time, beautiful, brilliant in and out of the court, just different. All we know he shaked last year the sleeping tennis circuite and all we know he had the best potential tennis game to display on a court. We just saw a little part of it and it was incredible. I really hope that he could find the way on wich fun and profession can go together, and his strong wishes of freedom and independence could became reality at once we receive happines and fun from him!
01-04-2004, 12:25 AM
Just a matter of style
His natural elegance, which some people could confuse with "arrogance" (London, Ace Magazine), makes the difference. He has style in every little sense of this word meaning, on and off the court. That's makes him special. That's the reason why many people try to ignore him or attack him in many ways, kind a blindness that envy or incapacity to look makes work there.
When he walks, when he moves, when he speaks, when he smile, when he hit the ball fast or slow, high or down, on the baseline or on the net. No way to escape.
How we could remember and consistently his shots and movements on court? Like a beautiful movie scene, or an amazing painting detail, or a wonderful poem fragment? Just because Marat playing tennis has the same quality of really good pieces of art: they will remain on our mind for lasting and lasting years.
But that's not enough to define his game. How could someone be so elegant and powerful at same time? Usually we have to choice between an elegant talented player and a powerful one. Oh, surprise, Marat has the two qualities in one movement, in one of his body acts and in every surface tennis court. Can we say he has a powerful talent or talent colors his power? Marat makes possible this kind of word games because his tennis game displays an amazing talent in a variety of shots going from the exquisite touches to the faster and harder strokes. When he serves like a killer and immediately hit the ball in a perfect slow drop shot (Hrbaty surely remember this). When he left the opponent stunned, knocks-out. Nothing to do, Marat is returning the serve, Marat is showing his amazing backhand. No way, the ball passing to the line, nothing to return then. Most of the best have proved this: Sampras, Agassi, Ferrero, Hewitt.
But that's not enough to define him and our amazed feelings to him. He his not a disciplined machine having robotic results. He has heart and feelings coming out on court. He shouts, yells, moves his arms, breaks rackets and speaks to everyone. And also in this he is so elegant like an angry or mad prince or a mad "tatar khan", being precise with his tatar roots. And also he has his ups and downs and glint curious eyes open looking around the world off the court. He is alive. And he is beautiful, we have to say it, his face and body like a Michelangelo work of art. So we have a really great time for our senses watching him play, powerful, beautiful, elegant and alive at same time.
But that's not enough again to define his brilliance and our feelings. Because he is not only a wonderful amazing and unique tennis player, he is also a nice, glamorous and so smart young man living and watching what is all around. His interviews are like treasure full of funny and non-stereotyped phrases about anything and also about tennis world. He is contradictory, as one reporter said: "he is both relaxed and intense, boyish and self-assured, all-conquering and oddly fragile". So full of complexity and smashed mysteries too, as his tatar roots and his so exceptionally growing up so alone since 13 years old in a strange country, knowing anybody neither the language they were speaking neither their habits or foods or places to go. Just a phone line was his family. So far as choose the cellular phone as his favorite object: "Without it I feel lost". Then he grew up so strongly independent and at same time so emotional and love needed. The thing he never forgets to remark about his tennis travels. "Anyone have something else to do, so nobody wants me!" (US Open 2000). "Who is with you now?- Nobody!" (Monte Carlo Open, 2001). He also remarked about Mats Wilander after Kay Biscayne 2001: "I lose but he is still with me!!" We can perceive a little bit of suffer in this kind of humor phrases, which join losers and winners with company and even love.
And we can continue: he is so honest and direct about his errors, the tennis world and star system tricks! His "job", his "torture" sometimes. So honest as being a little bit rude when he is judging a rival. After Roland Garros 1998, he was asked about what most impressed him about Cedric Pioline, his winner. Marat said: "Nothing. He's a normal player. It's nothing special." The really "normal player" Pioline instead said: "He's young, but he looks very good. It was very tough playing against him because he was hitting a lot of winners, playing very close to the line. I broke [his serve four] times - that's not so much in a five-set match on clay. ... It was not easy at all. I was able to survive." And what was the distraction this evening, which took Marat away from the match? Romario and Anna Kournikova presence on stadium. He was so young! Just a 18 years old making a lot of difference with "normal players" game and losing because an admired football guy and a beautiful young woman were around him!. This week after her loss on first round Monte Carlo Open, he affirmed: "I couldn't do anything against him. To lose 6-3, 6-1 against Di Pasquale, is not the way to play tennis." We can forgive him these kind of rude things because he made them just of being honest and direct truly with him and with the rest. The same guy, for example, can praise Agassi or Sampras or Guga, because he really knows about tennis level. Even after his loss against Hrbaty in QF Australian Open 2000 in his lovely broken English syntax Marat said, "It was ridiculous what I made on court today", but "It's also you have to give a little bit respect to Dominik. He played great, and I don't think -- you have to respect him. I couldn't change anything today. But nothing -- is not -- just it wasn't my day."
And the same young man is also able of extracting from chaotic media-chats, as was on ATP during Indian Wells, the possibility of say beautiful phrases like: "The stars are only in the sky" when a fan asked him about his feeling being a new tennis star. Or an ironic one in front of this kind a "heee,hii,hehehe" speeches we usually see on chats and forums: "What language do you speaks?" He never let us empty, we remain laughing or thinking and enjoying his words, his way of reply and look life and world. And he is only 21!
Back on tennis court closing the circle of trying to define his wonderful style, we can hear Marat words again speaking about his own game: "What strategy? No strategy" said to Charly Rose, and immediately after the finals USOpen to the reporter who asked him how he could return the Sampras serve so well: "Would you think I know?" And then I asked myself "How could one resist that humor and charm in one sport young man speaking about himself?" He hit the head of the nail again and again. This is one of the keys of his amazing game: he is able to surprise himself and us with his creative, imaginative and powerful, artistic game. He acts on the court by instinct like an animal that know immediately where the white patch is, he feels the ball before the ball come and then hit fast and hard, or slow and soft, standing or running, always with his so special and elegant style.
So, afterward watching him on court, how do not feel lost when he doesn't play? How do not feel boring watching all the rest? If we have the privilege to prove a taste dish, all the rest seem without color, and flavor, a fading sky making our eyes going to another place. If we see a brilliant light shinning, then all the rest seems stars falling down, weak and less and less, failing on work our senses out and exciting. As if the sky were not so blue and clear any more and the green would get pale.
Mats Wilander a Marat game good observer said: "In the finals he was maybe playing 50 per cent of his ability". And promise us a lot of Grand Slams with Marat raising a cup. I couldn't imagine how could be possible a 100 per cent of this already amazing game, and if Marat would be able to realize all what his potential promise at 21 years old. The life is so strange sometimes. Simply what is shinning for us in that promise is so delicious that we can't wait! We have just taste a little but it's enough! So we can't wait sometimes, we are so exciting and impatient sometimes, that we can't wait and for sure we can't replace him for anyone player in the whole world!
But we know we must wait and let him be. We must wait until, if the stars and gods were with us, the mature and splendid own Marat time would come.
01-04-2004, 12:28 AM
an letter to Marat by Xu Xiyu:
To Marat Safin
I'm a LOYAL fan of you from the graduate school of CAS (Chinese Academic of Science). I began to notice you and love you from 1998's Roland Garros just before the soccer World Cup. In the event you upset Agassi and Kuerten. From then on I know you are the future of tennis. Last year your perfect performance enjoys me very much, though it's a little bitter to lose the year's honor in the very last game. But in my opinion you're the BEST. I've watched "ATP Tennis Show" and gladly to see you made GREAT progress in backhand and volley. I'm sure you can make more progresses.
I don't know if last year's failure effect your confidence, (this year Hewitt win No1, and I feel relieved merely because Kuerten DIDN'T get it, frankly I don't like Hewitt, but I won't gloss over my more dislike of Kuerten.) and your back injury have made you neglect you enter the term of adjustment. But take it easy, and it doesn't matter. Sampras won his second slam three years after his first. He is one of the greatest players in history. Some people say you 're a meteor and you won't back form to No1, neither you will get another Slam. I think they're too NEAR-SIGHTED. The next decade belongs to you, and if you WILL, you will stay No1 for many, many years. Sampras has splendid past; you will have splendid future.
Let's take next year for instance. You have great chance in earning FrenchOpen and USOpen. I think you're one of the best clay-player in the world, and I don't think Kuerten will have luck winning in Paris clay again. You used to play good tennis in New York and your form in the second half year often better than that in the first half. You even have big opportunity in Wimbledon. With Sampras and Agassi's growing old and Rafter's retirement, many players have chance winning it, and you are of the biggest chance. And furthermore, if you can lift up the AusOpen Crown right on your BIRTHDAY, how Happy we fans will be! And I trust your ability. You'll earn at least one Master Series on clay; you can also earn a Master in North America; you still have chance in Paris Indoor. You can win at least three other Opens, including one or two gold series. Last but not least, you will win the Master Cup in Shanghai, and I'll go there and cheer for you if possible. (I still hope you win 2008 Beijing Olympic Medal, for frankly I can't find a Chinese who have chance earning it till now). Thus your can earn some 1,000 points in the year and of course, you're No1. It sounds good, isn't it? I think (and hope) you will play more perfectly. And even if you fail to be No1, I won't turn my love to other guys.
I love you not only because of your tennis technique and style (I like Agassi and Hewitt's tennis but I don't like their personality.) but also as a MAN. (I like Andy and Lapentti but I don't think they can be top players; I like Philiposis but I don't like the style: serving, rushing to volley, and that's all. I like Micheal Chang and Moya too, but certainly not so much as you) I can't imagine man so HANDSOME before seeing you. I think this is a good excuse. I'm not a man who shows special interest in a male, but one must admit you're too perfect a man in good shape. You have a prince's appearance and a prince's qualities. For tennis is a NOBLE game, isn't it? And I don't like Kuerten, Rios and Grosjean, for their looking so strange. It's like the case that I admit Zidane is good, but my favorite soccer star is Raul.
I have some advices for you. If you won't take it, it's OK; if you can do me a favor, or if my advice seem do something good for you, I'll be very happy. These advices are somewhat harsh, but as the old saying goes: "Bitter medicine cures illness indeed." I truly hope you act the best.
The first is on SELF-CONFIDENCE. You sometimes underestimate yourself. When you play with a hard opponent, you easily become nervous, lose your temper, and even throw the racket. And you lose easily. Tennis is the marathon in ball games and it needs patience. You struggle, and you can't find your rhythm; but never give up, wait for every chance. I always reckon your match against Philiposis in last November's Paris carpet is the BEST match I've ever seen. In that match you show your talents, your techniques, your valiance, your strength, and your confidence. You win a big match not only because you play well, but also because you act as a knight.
The second is on your SCHEDULE. You take part in so many tournaments. I know you want to give fans more pleasure. You work hard: this is good. But you are not a machine, and one can't keep form in consecutive matches. I don't think your participation in Hong Kong and Lyon is wise. I have seen your photos with the American-born Chinese canary Liwen (her English name is CoCo, isn't it?) In the scene you're wearing an ancient Chinese dress. I don't mean you shouldn't take part in those parties, on the contrary, I like you both; the key is the Hong Kong Open affords too little points and too little prices and it doesn't match you. As for this year, except Moscow and St. Petersburg, you can attend events like Dubai, Barcelona, Indianapolis, etc. These match you.
The third is how to deal with MONEY. You are a star; you are famous in the whole world; you are wealthy. Many people come to you. Some are for your personal charm, but many are merely for your money. You are ready to make friends; you treat them honestly-but some "friends" are not true friends. So you must know one's intention before making friends wish him. Furthermore, don't spend money without plan. You're still too many years to undergo, so you'd better have a plan. If you denote more money for Social Welfare like Sampras, we'll be more appreciate.
The forth is how to confront with CRITICISM. Most people love you, while some people dislike you-even scold you. I can't intervene of their privates, but there must be someone ENVIES you. That's not the problem; in most case they hiss you merely because they love you-they want you to do better, I won't buy Kuerten's tickets (except with you), I don't care about him, certainly I don't hiss him, and I won't take pleasure on his misfortune. In August in Montreal you quit at Round1, some people hissed you; I'm sure you're honest: you're injured. But you must show sympathy for the audiences: they bought ticket for you; they want your good performance; you quit, they're disappointed. This reminds me of Andy in Cincinatti, where he met Kuerten in the first round when he's injured he persisted, he lost, but the audience cheered for him! So you should forgive the masses in Moscow and you should attend the event there, after all, it's your native land, your birthplace.
Some people treat you differently merely because you're Russian. Even the ATP official treats you unfairly. But don't feel shame of your country. You should feel PROUD of it. As the old maxim says: "Our nation, right or wrong", one can't determine his country, and he must love it. In the nation so many writers, mathematicians, scientists, artists, composers and politicians are born, so it's a great country. In the last decade many things happened in your motherland. Your nation went through a tough reformation (I think it's necessary). Many things changed. But as the great former USSR leader Lenin said: "Bread will come; all will come." I think Russians can overcome all the difficulties. After all, you have a smart leader Putin.
Till now some 1,000 words may be completed, and if you can have interests in reading till here, I'll be deeply honored. I merely love you so I wrote the above things; if it can help you at the least measure, my works deserve.
May you have a splendid future!!!
01-04-2004, 12:09 PM
Thanks Andrea! :kiss:
Delfina's work is amazing! :worship:
01-05-2004, 06:12 AM
1997- Moved more than 200 ranking positions with an 11-5 match record in Challenger play...Advanced to SF at Scheveningen, QF at Azores and won his first title at Espinho (d. Huet)...1998-Finished in Top 50 with first ATP SF in Long Island and added QF in Tashkent...Qualified and reached 4th RD at Roland Garros (d. Agassi, Kuerten, l. to Pioline)...Also 4th RD at US Open...1999-The No. 2 Russian (behind world No. 2 Kafelnikov) won his first ATP title in Boston (d. Rusedski), dropping one set in five matches...One of three teenagers (Ferrero, Hewitt) to win an ATP title during year...Helped Russia to Davis Cup SF by winning fifth and decisive matches in 1st RD (d. Kiefer) and QF (d. Hrbaty in five sets) ties...Went 4-2 in five-set matches during season...In February, advanced to back-to-back SF in St. Petersburg and Rotterdam...During clay court circuit, advanced to 4th RD at Roland Garros for second straight year and in August, made it to SF in Amsterdam...During European indoor circuit in November, reached his first TMS final in Paris with wins over No. 5 Kuerten (2nd), Courier (QF) and Chang (SF) before losing to Agassi in four sets...2000-Led ATP with seven titles and at time he became youngest player to finish No. 2 since 19-year-old Boris Becker in 1986...Also became first player under age of 21 to win at least seven titles in a season since Mats Wilander won nine in 1983...He led ATP in singles matches won (73), finals reached (9) and was second in singles matches played (100), one behind countryman Kafelnikov...Entered his first Tennis Masters Cup in Lisbon with a 75-point lead in ATP Champions Race over Kuerten and was twice within one victory of becoming youngest year-end No. 1...But after winning his first two round robin matches, lost to Sampras in final round robin and fell to Agassi in SF...He also could have finished No. 1 if Kuerten lost in any of four matches he won, including SF (vs. Sampras) and final (vs. Agassi)...Finished 15 points behind Kuerten for year-end No. 1 ranking...During year, only player to win two Tennis Masters Series titles and second in TMS matches won (21) behind Kuerten's 25...After a disappointing 5-11 start in the first four-and-a-half months of the season, he turned things around with back-to-back titles in Barcelona (d. Ferrero) and Mallorca (d. Tillstrom) under former Top 10 Andrei Chesnokov as coach...His first of two 12-match winning streaks during year came to an end with a 2nd RD loss to Mantilla at TMS Roma...He followed with his first TMS final in Hamburg, losing in a fifth-set tie-break to Kuerten in a 3-hour, 52-minute marathon...Continued his clay court success by winning three matches in leading Russia to its first final in the ATP World Team Championship in Dnsseldorf (l. to Slovak Republic)...Advanced to his first Grand Slam QF at Roland Garros...Compiled a 24-4 record under Chesnokov... During the grass court circuit he worked with former Stefan Edberg mentor Tony Pickard...He reached QF at Queen's and 2nd RD at Wimbledon...During North American summer hard court circuit, under guidance of former pro Alexander Volkov, he compiled a 12-2 record with his first TMS title in Toronto (d. Sampras in QF, Ferreira in SF, Levy in F) and a runner-up in Indianapolis (l. to Kuerten)...The biggest moment of his career came at the US Open where he struggled in his first three matches, winning in four sets over Guardiola in 1st RD and in five sets over Pozzi in 2nd RD and Grosjean in 3rd RD...In his last four matches, only lost one set while defeating Ferrero (4th RD), Kiefer (QF), 1999 finalist Todd Martin (SF) and the game's all-time Grand Slam titles leader Sampras (F) for his first Grand Slam title...It was Sampras' first straight-sets loss in a Slam final and he had won eight consecutive Slam finals he appeared in since 1995...The following week he made the long journey to Tashkent and only dropped one set in five matches (d. Sanguinetti in F)...He became first player to win an ATP title the following week of a Grand Slam title since Ivan Lendl in 1985...Had his 12-match winning streak snapped with 1st RD loss at Sydney Olympics (l. to Santoro)...After splitting with long-time coach Rafael Mensua in mid-April, resumed working with him in Vienna...Then reached SF in Moscow, 3rd RD at TMS Stuttgart and captured his first ATP title in Russia in St. Petersburg (d. Hrbaty)...Continued his strong play by winning TMS Paris, defeating Philippoussis in a fifth set tie-break on his sixth match point (in 3 hours, 29 minutes)....Compiled a 21-6 match record after his Open title and entered Tennis Masters Cup with a 10-match winning streak...Led ATP with 32 tie-break sets won (32-20) and had a 23-3 match record winning a breaker...One of four players (Corretja, Kuerten, Norman) to win at least 25 matches on clay (25-9) and hard (36-15) courts...Led ATP in aces (921)...Earned a career-high $3,524,959...2001 - Played well in final two months by repeating ATP titles in Tashkent (d. Kafelnikov) and St. Petersburg (d. Schuettler)...Bothered by back problems in early part of year and opened season with a 4th RD at Australian Open and followed with QF in Milan...His problems began on Mar. 2 in SF of Dubai where he injured his back in SF victory over Johansson...Completed match but retired at 6-2, 3-1 next day in final against Ferrero...Helped his country to final at ATP World Team Championship in Dusseldorf (l. to Australia) with victories over Sampras and Squillari..Had a 16-15 match record on season going into Wimbledon and made turnaround at All England Club where he reached his first QF, losing to eventual champion Ivanisevic in four sets...During summer hard court circuit, was bothered by tendinitis in his left knee but reached SF in Indianapolis... Returned as defending champion at US Open and fell in straight sets to Sampras in SF...2002-Finished in Top 3 for second time in three years, highlighted by Tennis Masters Series title in Paris and second career Grand Slam final at Australian Open...Had second-most match wins (22) in TMS events...Also appeared in his second Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai and went 0-3 in round robin play (losing twice in three sets)...Led his country to Davis Cup title with wins over France's Mathieu and Grosjean and won at least 50 matches for second time in his career...In first Grand Slam event in Melbourne, defeated Sampras in 4th RD, Ferreira in QF and Haas in a five-set SF before falling to Johansson in four sets on his 22nd birthday...During clay court circuit, reached final without dropping a set at TMS Hamburg before falling to Federer in final...Continued strong play at Roland Garros where he reached SF for first time, defeating Frenchmen DiPasquale (4th RD) and Grosjean (QF) before losing to Ferrero in straight sets...Compiled a 22-20 mark in tie-breaks and had a 21-0 record in matches when winning tie-break...Went 21-15 on hard, 20-8 on clay and 12-2 on carpet.
01-15-2004, 06:15 AM
Russian men face tough year
15 January 2004
MOSCOW: With Marat Safin fighting back to form and Yevgeny Kafelnikov contemplating retirement, Russian men's tennis faces a tough year, the country's tennis chief Shamil Tarpishchev says.
"No doubt, it's going to be a difficult year for our men," Tarpishchev, president of the Russian Tennis Federation and Davis Cup captain, said.
"It's no big secret that while we have plenty of quality female players, we have been short on the men's side in recent years," Tarpishchev said.
The Russians, who face Davis Cup world group newcomers Belarus in a first-round tie from February 6 to 8, are desperately looking for new blood to boost their chances of winning back the trophy after their 2002 triumph.
"It becomes an even bigger problem for us this year with Kafelnikov's future in the balance," Tarpishchev said.
The former world number one, who turns 30 next month, has looked out of shape, putting on eight kilos of excess weight.
Safin, on the other hand, is anxious to put the worst year of his career behind him as he prepares for the first grand slam of the year, the Australian Open, which starts next Monday.
The 2000 US Open champion, who has his 24th birthday on January 27, spent much of last season on the sidelines nursing injuries.
"I think this year will be crucial for him if he really wants to return to the top of the world," Tarpishchev said.
"He has wasted much of the last two years being injured but his main problem was more mental than physical.
"It was obvious from his form last year that Marat had lost confidence in his game and he needs one good run, one big win in order to get it back," the captain added.
"But if Safin continues to struggle this year, then it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for him to regain his mental edge."
Mikhail Youzhny, Russia's 2002 Davis Cup hero, also struggled last year, reaching just three semi-finals from 27 tournaments.
"Youzhny has a top-20 potential but he must be a much more consistent player than he is at the moment," Tarpishchev said.
With Kafelnikov relegated to the role of assistant coach, the captain will have to rely on Safin, Youzhny, Nikolay Davydenko and newcomer Igor Andreyev against the gritty Belarussians.
01-15-2004, 09:45 AM
Shamil is right, the pressure is again on Marat, but I hope he's fit by then. If he's fit he'll win the tie singlehandedly ;)
01-15-2004, 01:50 PM
Thanks for the article! :kiss:
01-16-2004, 01:03 PM
interesting article. Thanks!
01-17-2004, 08:01 PM
I posted this article in the ao thread but i'll post it here as well.
Safin decides to get serious
January 18, 2004
Marat Safin's raw talent helped to take him to the world No. 1 ranking and he is hoping hard work will put him there again.
Picture: Vince Caligiuri
Marat Safin may be this year's player to watch, reports Linda Pearce.
Marat Safin has just finished a thunderous practice session overseen by his latest coach, part-time Russian tour player Denis Golovanov.
The performance is imposing, an effortless service action pounding one last basket of balls. Safin may be the world's 77th-ranked player, but he also intends to return to No. 1 before the year is out.
Which may sound optimistic, but Safin has never been one for restraint. The past season, in which he won only 12 matches in 23 tournaments, was the most difficult of his career. Safin spent months able only to rest and hope, waiting for his damaged left wrist to heal. No doubt he also enhanced his reputation for party-boy behaviour during his time away, but more significant is his post-sabbatical vow to change his erratic, undisciplined tennis ways.
Indeed, one former coach, Mats Wilander, has said that "if Marat had the head of Jim Courier, he would be unbeatable".
So, are we seeing the new, calm, committed Marat at last?
"I'm trying, I'm trying, I'm really trying," said Safin, whose 2002 Australian Open finals loss to Thomas Johansson was most notable for his busty blonde "entourage" and carefree - almost careless - demeanour. "I had six months off, so I've been talking to people, and they give me good advice, so at least I can understand a little bit myself and I can understand a little bit what I need to do.
"It has to work. I have no other option. I have been out for basically almost a year, so I have a lot of time to think about my life, about my tennis life, and make some good decisions and that's why I decided to prepare myself quite seriously for this year, because it's time.
"I'm going to be 24, so time to do something big, and life is moving, so you have to hurry up. Otherwise, it's going to be too late."
Safin will never be a Courier, or Lleyton Hewitt clone, and has only recently been struck by the radical idea of trying, really hard, until a match is over. Yet he is not one for if-onlys, despite his performance against Pete Sampras in the 2000 US Open final prompting the towering 20-year-old to be hailed as the prototype of the next generation. Somehow, more than three years later, the rising 24-year-old is still waiting for major No. 2.
"It comes with time. It's coming at a certain age, but for some people that's very early, and for some people that's 23, as it happens to me," said Safin of his new-found resolve. "But I also don't regret anything I did in the past. I mean, maybe I had to change something, but it was OK.
"You have to go through the periods of time, the periods of life, the directions. You have to find everything and put it in order."
Still, the present world order is horribly unflattering among a peer group that includes Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Hewitt. While Federer, Roddick and Ferrero won singles majors last year, and Hewitt led his country to a Davis Cup, Safin tumbled from No. 3 to 77th.
Injury was the major factor. The Russian arrived here last January fresh from his country's Davis Cup win, only to withdraw before his Sydney quarter-final with a shoulder injury, and then tear ligaments in his left wrist during his first match at Melbourne Park.
"Basically I was in great shape, I came here, I got injured and then all the year was screwed up," he said.
Safin tried twice to return to the court, but it was soon clear that a long break was needed, and the semi-final defeat of Ferrero in Barcelona on April 26 was his most recent tour victory. Five demoralising first-round losses prompted one last withdrawal, from the Paris Masters, to prepare for 2004.
Safin spent a solid month training in Monte Carlo under fitness adviser Walt Landers and Golovanov, his sixth coach in three years. "He's the person that he can travel with me for 42 weeks a year, he can be for me 24 hours available and he knows me since I was 12," Safin said.
Safin believes he belongs in the company of Roddick, Federer, Ferrero et al. "I think there will be times that they will beat me, that I will beat them, so it's going to be a competition like it was before with Becker, Sampras, Agassi."
Who, then, is the next Pete? Safin himself? "No, it's Federer. Federer I think is Sampras. He has the potential. He's very talented and he has more or less the same game. he needs more improve(ment), but he plays as nice as Pete. He is very talented, definitely. Very good hands, very good serve.
"But I think for me the most talented of all times was (Marcelo) Rios. But unfortunately he doesn't want to continue his tennis career, because when it's too easy for you, then it's boring."
The same, perhaps, could be said of Safin. "For me, tennis is not so easy," he insisted. "But I've been working really hard, I've put in a lot of time and a lot of dedication, and I'm trying to make it easier."
01-17-2004, 09:16 PM
nice article :)
01-20-2004, 12:48 AM
Safin looking to make up for the lost time
MELBOURNE: Marat Safin is looking to make up for lost time at the Australian Open after an injury-plagued 2003.
The Russian, whose ranking has slumped to 86 after playing just 13 tournaments last year, got away safely in the first Grand Slam tournament of 2004 by taking out American Brian Vahaly in four sets on Monday. Safin, who was runner-up here to Swede Thomas Johansson in 2002 after beating Pete Sampras in the 2000 US Open final, beat Vahaly, ranked two places higher, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours 26 minutes in a night match.
Safin, who turns 24 on January 27, missed large chunks of last season with left wrist trouble, which forced him to withdraw ahead of his third-round match with eventual finalist Rainer Schuettler last year. “It’s the first match, a win in four sets, it was okay for a long time off, being off the court,” said Safin, who now faces Finland’s Jarko Nieminen in the second round. “I hope I can play a couple more matches here and then I can see how physically I’m playing and what I should work on this year.” Safin, one of the feared players in men’s tennis when he is on top of his game, sees the Open as a chance to relaunch his career. “I had some time off. It makes you think what are your needs, what you should do and see tennis from outside of the court... you have a completely different view. “I had a really good time off. I want to be back and want to finish the year number one.” Safin said he work hard for six weeks to prepare for the new season. “I hope I’ll be paid somehow for this work that I did in running all over the mountains and pumping some weights and all these things,” Safin said. Asked which mountains, Safin replied sheepishly: “In Monaco. Is it not the place to practice?” —AFP
01-20-2004, 02:29 AM
From the AO website:
Safin wants to be No.1
by Barry Levinson
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
A frustrating 2003 plagued by injury could prove to be a positive for powerful Russian Marat Safin.
A recurring wrist complaint destroyed his year and saw his ranking slide from No.3 at the end of 2002 to No.77 12 months later.
But while he didn't enjoy his time on the sidelines, the soon-to-be 24-year-old (January 27) said it presented him with the ideal opportunity to reflect on his game.
Safin made a successful return to the Australian Open, after being forced out with the wrist injury prior to the third-round last year, by accounting for American Brian Vahaly 6-2 3-6 6-3 6-4 in the opening round on Monday night.
And after passing his first test of Australian Open 2004, the baseliner boldly stated his aim was to claim the No.1 ranking by year's end.
Currently sitting at No.86, Safin knows the job is all ahead of him.
"I want to be back and I want to finish the year No.1," he said.
The Russian added that his goal could be achieved by simply being consistent.
"There is no special formula for that. You have to play well during all the big tournaments and try to make a smart schedule for yourself, try to work hard and not to lose the matches you have to win."
"There's a lot of guys competing and a lot of guys in great shape…and the more consistent and mentally tougher player will end up No.l."
Safin said his rapid rise over the previous four years had been a blur, with no time to analyse his strengths and weaknesses.
But, after being limited to playing in only 13 tournaments last year, his enforced break meant he had little else to do.
"(It was) quite frustrating, but it was (also) really good," Safin, the runner-up to Swede Thomas Johansson at Australian Open 2002, said.
"I had some time off. It makes you think a lot about your needs, what should you do, and you see tennis [from a different perspective] outside of the court. You have a completely different view."
"When you're playing all the time, you have no time off. It's difficult to adjust and see what you're doing on the court. But when you have time off, it's a completely different story."
He said he has also rediscovered his hunger for the game.
"I had a lot of months off the court, but still I want to play and I have motivation. I want to do well."
Prior to the commencement of Safin's 2004 season, which saw him representing his country alongside Anastasia Myskina at the Hopman Cup, he endured six weeks of hard, physical training.
Safin said this time was spent 'pumping weights' and 'running all over the mountains' in Monaco, where he resides.
After his four-set victory over Vahaly, the Russian felt it was too early to make a call on his form and fitness after just one match, but made it clear that he expected to be in Melbourne well into the second week.
"It's difficult to make some conclusions about my physical condition. It was just the first match and I'll see how it's going in the future."
"It's (the comeback) going quite well, but sometimes you get frustrated because you think you can finish in three sets and then you're losing the second set and basically the guy (Vahaly) was taking me over in the third set."
"I didn't come here just to make a couple of rounds and just be satisfied of being in the fourth-round or in the second-round, or whatever I will do here."
"If I'm coming here, I will try to do my best. I will try to win it, why not?"
01-20-2004, 01:01 PM
thanks for the articles :kiss:
he sounds very good:):D
01-20-2004, 10:20 PM
From Globe and mail:
Pelletier wilts as Roddick serves up a win
By TOM TEBBUTT
Tuesday, January 20, 2004 - Page S3
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA -- Festive, fun and full of that airy, warm feeling of late summer -- that was the atmosphere as people filed into the Rod Laver Arena yesterday for opening-night action at the Australian Open.
It featured Australian Nicole Pratt -- or Pratty, as the homefolk call her -- against American Meghann Shaughnessy, and Andre Agassi against another Australian, Todd Larkham.
Wandering through the crowds were three musicians -- a saxophonist, a drummer and a trombonist -- with goofy, fruit-festooned hats on their heads and mischief on their minds.
They circled one unsuspecting woman while playing a catchy tune, then stationed themselves in front of a middle-aged couple holding hands and began to play Here Comes The Bride. It was a pleasant evening after a sunny day with a high temperature of 30.
There was, however, plenty of wind in the afternoon, which made for some tricky tennis during the match between Marie-Eve Pelletier of Repentigny, Que., and Akiko Morigami of Japan.
Playing in her first Grand Slam event, Pelletier, 21, gave her all, but came up a 7-6 (7-2), 4-6, 6-4 loser to diminutive Morigami in a match that lasted 2 hours 35 minutes.
Morigami, who hits with surprising "pop" using two hands, suffered from cramps in her thighs midway through the second set and looked very vulnerable after losing it. But then both players took a break, and Morigami appeared revitalized.
A close third set came down to Pelletier serving at 4-5, 30-30. But a double fault after a short rally ended her chance for a second-round meeting with Pratt, a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 winner over Shaughnessy.
Carlos Moya did not even get a chance to start what would have been his eighth appearance in the Australian Open. The seventh seed had to withdraw because of the sprain to this right ankle he suffered during the final of the ATP Tour event in Sydney last Saturday.
"I'm disappointed I couldn't play here," said Moya, who had won his first nine matches in 2004. "I've always said this is my favourite Grand Slam tournament."
Top seed Andy Roddick won his opening match 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) over explosive but erratic Fernando Gonzalez of Chile.
Roddick, the co-holder with Greg Rusedski of the record for the fastest serve in history, 239 kilometres an hour, said after the match that going out with a speed gun and whaling away, without worrying about where the ball landed, would not necessarily allow him to beat that mark.
"If you do that, you can't serve as hard," he said. "If you force it, it's not going to work for you. A lot of it is timing, not necessarily how hard you swing at the ball."
One of the biggest servers in the sport, Marat Safin of Russia, made a successful return to Grand Slam play for the first time in a year by beating American Brian Vahaly 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The 2000 U.S. Open champion, who will turn 24 next week, had an extended recovery from his injured left wrist and missed last year's Wimbledon tournament and the French and U.S. Opens.
Now, he is back, eager and still one of the more amusing players on the tour.
Commenting on the status of compatriot Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Safin told reporters: "Guys, he's quit. You won't see him any more. He weighs 105 kilos." About the absence of an official announcement, he said, "He doesn't have to announce it -- he is Kafelnikov."
There is also an update on what Safin referred to as his "bench" two years ago when he reached the final at Melbourne Park. The highly publicized bench was made up of three attractive blondes who sat in his courtside seats.
This year, it would be fair to say he has shortened his bench. It has only one woman, and she is a brunette.
01-20-2004, 11:33 PM
It has only one woman, and she is a brunette.
Am I slow?
Who is the "woman"?
01-21-2004, 05:44 AM
thanks cat for the article!
i'm thinking the brunette is Denis' wife...
01-21-2004, 08:20 AM
yes its probably denis wife. The brunette was also there when they showed Marat training in Monaco in Dezember last year with Denis and Walt.
01-21-2004, 11:26 PM
Lol, okay thankyou!
01-22-2004, 03:36 AM
So denis gf was in monaco? Does she look the same as the one at AO last year with the cousin? The long, straight black hair and could look like silvia with sunglasses on? Or is this a different Denis gf? Just curious.
01-22-2004, 12:53 PM
that are a lot of questions ;)
Well i dont know if she is Denis gf, i just guessed. Maybe she is even Marat`s gf. I just saw her for a second cause she was hiding, lol. So i cant really say much. Just saw she has a pretty face and long dark brown hair.
No she doesnt look like the girl from last year at the AO at all, cause she had blonde hair.
01-22-2004, 03:18 PM
A little something I translated from gzt.ru:
A flash from Safin. Not yet bright
Marat Safin with the win of his second round match in Melbourne unconditionally convinced the tennis world that he is cruising back to the sport’s elite. The play of the Russian, who still keeps his presence in the draw after the third day of the tournament, fascinates all the more because it incorporates some new ‘attractive’ features. These are not technical, no - in this area Marat has to recollect <remember> not learn, the changes are rather tactical. In simpler terms: Safin became more stable and steady in his behavior on court.
Looking down from Marat’s previous career peak (there is very little doubt that there will be the ‘next’ peak), his total comeback is visible, but in the distance. The wins over the ‘gray’ America Brian Vahaly and over a bit more skillful but still of no different colour Jarkko Nieminen do not fit into the box of ‘superb wins’. However, this point of view is more than just inappropriate at this time. Instead, sighs, totally deserved by Marat, burst out of our chests as smoothly as Marat’s two dozen 200-km/h aces blowing out dust from the corners of the court surface. 8 unforced errors in three sets – that was in the US Open final three-and-a- half years ago. Now it is around 50, let it be three sets or four. Ironically, there is improvement behind this too.
On Monday, playing a shorter match with a simpler <as in the text> competitor, Safin gave us and himself more than fifty unwanted gifts. Two days later destabilizing the uncanny but feisty play of the Finn (who not so long ago was among the seeds in the Slams), Marat sealed the victory with a reduced number of errors, 47. The statistics are only backing up the good impression from the live game. Marat’s game is becoming more precise and clean minute-by-minute, all this right before our eyes. This is due to hard work and sky-high self belief and motivation, which surprisingly only increased during the 6-month layoff at the ‘rock-bottom’.
The third round starts tomorrow for Marat. Safin has to play against yet another ‘lumberjack’. The only difference is that he’s not Finnish, but American. That latter is a veteran who is oath to write memoirs by now, but with all the extraordinary precision and reliability of his serve it would be a sin for Todd martin to start the literary works just yet, even considering his ‘grand pa’s ’ in tennis terms. 7-6 7-6 7-6 was the score with which this gray-haired giant moved past his opponent Ivo Karlovic. It is worth to mention that on Monday Martin played another marathon, a 5-set match with two tie-breaks. Why are we saying this? We are saying this because Martin might have his flaws, but he does have a mighty big bag of stamina. To be frank, he’s not that old after all. Andre Agassi is his age and is nothing less and nothing more than a favourite to win the prestigious title.
Nevertheless, that does not matter. Has Todd Martin the strength to fight in scorching heat or not, Marat will have some real chances to get to round four. It might not be right to say “will get” just yet. Let Safin climb to another peak first, and then you (as a die-hard fan) can expect a win from him and even demand one. But now Marat “has some real chances”. Marat has more weapons up his sleeve, although the powers of the service of the two are close to equal.
01-22-2004, 03:29 PM
thanks a lot Vass.
01-22-2004, 03:33 PM
Thank you Vass! :)
01-22-2004, 03:34 PM
Marat Safin is again garnering his share of attention at the Australian Open. The Russian's booming play and larger-than-life persona have made him a favorite.
But his sister is also making her mark.
Dinara Safina, Safin's 17-year-old younger sister, advanced to the third round on Thursday with a 7-5, 6-3 win over 27th-seeded Amanda Coetzer of South Africa.
Safina, ranked No. 48, is competing in her second Australian Open. While big brother made the 2002 final in Melbourne, losing to Swede Thomas Johansson, Safina had not won a match here before this year.
She beat Slovakia's Lubomira Kurhajcova before upsetting Coetzer. Next up is second-seeded Kim Clijsters.
01-22-2004, 03:37 PM
Hard match against Kim.
Thanks Andrea! :kiss:
01-22-2004, 06:08 PM
Thand you Andrea for the article...Big thanks to you Vass for the translation it's very nice of you. Much appreciated!
01-22-2004, 09:07 PM
nice article...thanks vass for the translation :kiss:
01-23-2004, 05:57 AM
"Big Red" survives mini meltdown to make round four (From Reuter post by Beth on Christine's forum thanks Beth)
By Ossian Shine
MELBOURNE, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Marat Safin survived a mini Melbourne Park meltdown on Friday before pulling his act together in the nick of time to beat Todd Martin in five sets and reach the Australian Open fourth round.
Safin outlasted American Martin 7-5 1-6 4-6 6-0 7-5 in an unseeded showdown on centre court.
The tortured Tartar was at times brilliant but also often resembled a park player, frequently venting his anger by slamming his racket into the ground.
A former world number one before an injury-plagued 2003 saw him slip to his current ranking of 86, Safin was a dark horse coming into the first grand slam of the season.
At his best, the big Russian is more than capable of adding to the U.S. Open crown he won in 2000.
But on Thursday he could only produce his best tennis sporadically and can consider himself fortunate to take a place in round four.
Both frustration and fury racked the Russian and for large parts of the match all Martin had to do was keep the ball in court and wait for an error.
On paper there are similarities between the two.
Both have been runner-up here, Martin in 1994 and Safin eight years later. Both have also reached the U.S. Open final: Martin lost in 1999 and Safin won the following year after beating Martin in the semi-finals.
In reality, the characters could hardly be more different.
Martin has always been a player who plays the percentages -- never flashy and always safe.
Aged 33, the American is not as old as his greying temples suggest but he has been around long enough to spot the signs of a player in distress and knows how to capitalise.
He kept his first serves rolling in, made Safin play the extra ball and kept it in play until the volatile Russian exploded.
Martin didn't panic after losing the first set and his patience was rewarded when Safin shanked countless balls out, losing the second set 6-1.
The annoyance stayed with the Russian and he lost the third in a flurry of errors and self-recrimination.
Seemingly all shouted-out, Safin got his mind back on tennis in the fourth set and quickly grabbed a break of serve in the second game before stretching it to a 3-0 lead.
Martin began to look a little less sure of himself, his serves lost a little of their consistency and Safin started to look like he was enjoying himself more.
He tore a forehand past Martin for a break point in the next game and streaked to a 4-0 lead when Martin netted a low backhand volley. He duly served out for 5-0 before breaking again for a love set to force the decider.
Putting tennis balls down the back of his shirt to ease back pain at changeovers, Martin looked ill at ease going into the fifth set with all momentum the Russian's way.
Safin has the better five-set record, winning 15 of the 22 he has played against Martin's 22 of 37, and he nosed ahead as Martin allowed a handful of close calls to unsettle him.
Finally, though, the elder man won a game for 1-1, fighting off a break point along the way, heralded by an uncharacteristic whoop of joy from the quiet American.
Safin's serve found its range and he held comfortably before latching on to Martin's serve, forcing him to work hard to hold.
But the American matched Safin game for game, albeit less convincingly.
Safin kept his nose ahead with solid serving and, leading 6-5, attacked the Martin delivery with renewed vigour.
A fiercely dipped return forced Martin into half-volleying wide and Safin then tore a backhand return past the advancing American for victory after three hours and 25 minutes.
He will meet James Blake next. The American easily beat France's Olivier Patience.
01-23-2004, 05:58 AM
Safin outlasts Martin (From AO Web Site)
Friday, 23 January, 2004
Russian Marat Safin has come back from two sets to one down to beat American Todd Martin in five sets, booking a fourth-round clash with James Blake.
Safin's 7-5 1-6 4-6 6-0 7-5 win has seen him progress to the fourth-round at the Australian Open for the third time in six appearances. Although he was unable to advance any further in the 2001 tournament, the following year he was runner-up to Thomas Johansson.
The former world No.1, currently ranked No.86 after an injury-plagued 2003 campaign, followed up his earlier wins over Brian Vahaly and Jarkko Nieminen with a hard-fought victory over the No.66-ranked Martin, also a former runner-up in Melbourne (1994).
Safin will next meet Blake, who had a much easier passage to the fourth-round, dropping just six games in his clash with Frenchman Olivier Patience.
Rod Laver Arena - Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Marat Safin RUS 7 1 4 6 7
Todd Martin USA 5 6 6 0 5
• The match lasted 3 hours 25 minutes
• Total points won: Safin 151, Martin 148
• Winners: Safin 53, Martin 57
• Aces: Safin 9, Martin 10
• 1st serve %: Safin 54%, Martin 62%
• Unforced errors: Safin 32, Martin 43
• Net approaches won: Safin 51 of 77, Martin 74 of 109
• Break point conversions: Safin 5 of 9, Martin 3 of 7
• Fastest serve: Safin 211 KPH, Martin 198 KPH
01-23-2004, 05:59 AM
Some glimpses from Marat's match:
01-23-2004, 09:40 AM
Thanks Cat! :kiss:
01-23-2004, 10:17 AM
Oh goodness...I do hope he goes well against James Blake!
01-23-2004, 10:40 AM
Some glimpses from Marat's match:
01-23-2004, 01:30 PM
thanks cat :kiss:
01-24-2004, 07:49 PM
I know this is late and all but I found this on the ITF site: Australian Open Day 5 - Safin Finds Old Spark for New Flame
Marat Safin and Todd Martin are two very different people. Safin is flamboyant and comical, Martin is reserved and steady. They also have a couple of things in common. Both have had their fair share of injuries, so many in fact that an entire episode of "ER" could be based on them. Another commonality is that both have been finalists at the Australian Open.
They seem to have been around a long time, well in Todd Martin's case, he has. Just kidding! Yet they have only met once before on the tour, that being the semifinal of the US Open in 2000 the year the Russian won his only Grand Slam crown. They met on this day in the third round of the Australian Open and produced arguably the best match of the tournament to date.
They played tennis that showed respect for one another and after close to three and a half hours it was Safin who squeezed into the last 16. There was a difference of just three points overall between them - 75 16 46 60 75. For Martin it was the 38th time in his career that he has played a five setter and that is third out of the active players - the only guys ahead of him are Andre Agassi on 42 and Wayne Ferreira on 39.
"This is a really good win for me - I think for many guys would be a really good win," said Safin. "This kind of match brings your confidence and it brings you to show that you have to stay in match till the end. Because even when you are losing and you are being beaten quite easily, you have some chances to get back."
Safin was trying to the end, that was evident. Martin has so much experience that he knows only too well how to play the big matches. The American also has a difficult game because he likes to serve and volley, chip and charge. He is constantly on the move to the net and passing him is very tough because he has such a wide wingspan.
Safin, who is playing his first Grand Slam for a year, has indicated that being away from the game for as long as he was makes it hard physically when you do return but he hastens to add that it's also very good. It's matches like this that help to being him back to the fold and gets the footwork going. These kinds of matches help to build the muscles and help return the strength.
He is determined to get back to being a major threat for the majors. He says it is "quite impressive" how far he has gone. He didn't expect to win so many matches in a row so soon.
Martin meanwhile says he is definitely encouraged for the rest of the year. The 33 year old did however hint that it wouldn't surprise him if 2004 turned out to be his last year. He says he has a schedule through to the US Open.
"Unless I'm for sure going to compete in 2005 and I have substantial reason to play in the fall, I'll take the fall off regardless. It might be take the fall off and retire," said Martin.
01-27-2004, 12:14 AM
Late but still good.
01-30-2004, 04:40 AM
In-form Safin to lead Russia against Belarus
2004-01-29 from gotennis.com (Reuters)
MOSCOW, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Australian Open finalist Marat Safin will lead Russia in next week's Davis Cup World Group first round tie away to Belarus.
Russia captain Shamil Tarpishchev also named newcomer Igor Andreyev along with Mikhail Youzhny and Nikolay Davydenko for the February 6-8 tie to be held at Minsk's indoor soccer arena.
Former world number one Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who is contemplating retirement, will travel with the team, albeit in his new role as assistant coach.
Russia, the 2002 Davis Cup champions, are firm favourites against World Group newcomers Belarus, especially after Safin's run of form in Melbourne.
After spending much of last year on the sidelines injured, the 24-year-old former U.S. Open champion has produced some fantastic tennis, culminating in a five-set victory over defending champion Andre Agassi in the men's semi-final.
The winner of the Belarus v Russia tie will either play Argentina or Morocco in the quarter-finals.
01-30-2004, 12:12 PM
I just realised meeting T Martin again could very well be a sign, I'm certainly interpreting it now as good!
Watch out Roger, fate is on Marat's side!!!!
01-31-2004, 07:39 PM
Hi guys I just post a few nice articles on Christine's board...I am going to post those here also cause I'm pretty sure you will enjoy it:
Federer to meet buoyant Safin (BBC)
FEDERER (2) v SAFIN
Roger Federer will seek to justify his new status as world number one by clinching his second Grand Slam title in the Australian Open final on Sunday.
The Wimbledon champion has been in supreme form in Melbourne, dropping just two sets on his way to the final and brushing aside Juan Carlos Ferrero in the last four to replace Andy Roddick as number one.
However, Marat Safin is equally keen to claim his second Slam, having won his first at the US Open in 2000.
The unseeded Russian has surprised almost everyone with his run to the final, after spending much of 2003 on the sidelines with an injured wrist.
"I came here to try to win it. And I'm almost there, just one left to go," Safin said after his scintillating five-set win over Andre Agassi.
"Everything is going my way for the moment."
Safin spent December training in Monte Carlo with fitness adviser Walt Landers, and the work appears to have paid off.
The 24-year-old has already played 27 sets in this tournament, and if he extends Sunday's final to more than three sets he will beat a record set by Harold Solomon at the 1976 French Open for the most sets played at a Grand Slam.
It's good to see Safin back - we're all happy, but we're scared at the same time
However, in beating Roddick and Agassi in successive matches, Safin has rediscovered the form which led many to predict a brilliant future for him a few years ago.
Federer is well aware of the danger posed by the Russian.
"It's good to see him back - we're all happy, but we're scared at the same time," he said.
"I know he's definitely got the game to win these tournaments."
In beating Ferrero so convincingly, Federer displayed the kind of form and composure which took him to the Wimbledon title.
Live on BBC1 and the BBC Sport website from 0250 GMT on Sunday
Federer tipped for greatness
And far from being overwhelmed by his new position as the world's best player, Federer simply said: "I love it."
The Swiss player said he was looking forward to facing Safin, who he has beaten three times, but never on a hard court.
"He's one of my favourite guys to play against, not because of the results, but the human side," says Federer.
"The whole tennis world is happy he's in the final."
Safin's first experience of an Australian Open final ended in a shock defeat to Thomas Johansson, but the Russian promises there will be no repeat of his lacklustre display in 2002.
"It is a completely different final," Safin said.
"It wasn't my best tennis. I had problems with myself. I was too nervous, too much other pressure. That's why I couldn't produce my best weapons in that final."
If he produces them on Sunday, it promises to be a final to remember.
01-31-2004, 07:40 PM
Safin on cusp of a fairytale (The Age)
By John Salvado
February 1, 2004
Having recovered from his gruelling five-set win over Andre Agassi on Thursday, Marat Safin had a workout at Melbourne Park yesterday evening.
Andy Roddick said it best. Speaking before his Australian Open quarter-final against Marat Safin, Roddick noted that no one in the know took any notice of the prodigiously talented Russian's current world ranking of 86.
"He's got the game," said the American. "His talent didn't go anywhere. He was injured - it's as simple as that."
It was that talent, combined with self-belief and a new-found dedication, that carried Safin through successive five-set classics against Roddick and Andre Agassi and into today's final.
His opponent is new world No. 1 Roger Federer, arguably the only player in the game with as much natural ability as the big Russian.
Federer and Safin both had a hit at Melbourne Park yesterday, but it is the Swiss who will start as the short-priced favourite, having spent eight hours fewer on court than Safin in advancing to his second grand slam final.
Friday night's straight-sets demolition of Juan Carlos Ferrero confirmed that Federer would claim the world No. 1 ranking for the first time, replacing Roddick. It was also the type of performance to put fear in the heart of any opponent.
He won 83 per cent of points on his potent first serve, stroked 34 winners and converted on four of his six break point opportunities.
But the Swiss superstar was quick to pay credit to Safin, whose 2003 season was ruined by the wrist injury he suffered at last year's Australian Open.
"He has definitely got the game to win these tournaments," said Federer, who has won three of his previous four clashes with Safin.
"You can't get up on him with a kick serve because he's so tall and so strong with his backhand. He's really tough on this surface."
It was that backhand, plus the extraordinary combination of 33 aces and no double faults, that were pivotal to Safin's semi-final win over Agassi. The big question is whether Safin has one more sublime performance left in him after a gruelling tournament in which he has already conceded nine sets and 129 games - the most ever by a grand slam finalist.
Not surprisingly, he thinks he does. "Even before the tournament, I said I'm not coming here to make up the numbers and to lose in the fourth round or the quarter-finals," he said.
"I came here to win it and I'm almost there. Just one match left to go and everything is going my way for the moment."
The only players to win grand slam titles with a lower ranking than Safin's current mark of 86 are 1976 Australian Open champion Mark Edmonson (No. 212) and 2001 Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic (No. 125).
But with due respect to both, Safin is a much better player whose current low ranking is more of an aberration. If he does come up short in today's final, it won't be because of a lack of ability.
01-31-2004, 07:41 PM
First, win the mind game, (The Age)
By Mats Wilander
February 1, 2004
As Roger Federer and Marat Safin will rediscover today, the challenges the mind faces in the final of a grand slam tournament are different to those in any other match.
Some of those challenges can be presented before a ball is hit, in the moments just before the final. It is a particular quirk of tennis that even for an occasion as big as a grand slam final, opposing players get themselves ready for play in the same locker room.
I remember preparing to play a United States Open final against Ivan Lendl and about 20 minutes before the match, I needed to go to the bathroom. I was sitting there in the cubicle and suddenly someone came into the cubicle right next to me.
Now, the walls didn't go all the way to the floor, and I could see what kind of shoes the guy was wearing. Sitting right there next to me was Ivan.
I thought, "Oh, this is great. This is really cool." I decided to just sit there for a while to see what his stomach was like. He was definitely nervous.
Once I'd found out, I got the hell out of there as quickly as I could.
Preparing for a grand slam final in the same locker room as your opponent is no great obstacle because you're so used to seeing the other guys in there.
Even during a final, when it's down to the last two singles players, there'll be some other guys in there, maybe some senior doubles players, and probably some trainers and coaches, so there's always some action in there.
Players have an assigned locker for the tournament and because you want to prepare the way you usually prepare, you're not going to change spots even if your opponent is sitting next to you.
I didn't usually have that problem because we Swedes always tried to be in the same part of the locker room, and there were so many of us that by the time of the final, you're surrounded by lockers that used to belong to the Swedes.
Safin has won one grand slam final and lost another, whereas Federer has won his only final. I believe that here, Safin has an advantage.
Federer and Safin could be sitting near each other in the locker room today. They're pretty good friends, and it was great to hear Roger say such generous things about Marat on Friday night.
Because of that friendship, I'd say they are likely to have some words together before the match. They probably won't say much, just something social. I couldn't see why not.
One final opponent I spoke to more than the others was my fellow Swede, Stefan Edberg. We even warmed up before a final together, at the Australian Open at Kooyong in 1985.
We weren't scheduled to practise together, but it had been raining and only one outside court had been covered. We said, "No problems, we'll warm up together".
It worked in his favour because it took the edge off me. That was my worst final, psychologically. I'd won three out of the four finals I'd played before that one, and I've since discovered that at that stage, players often experience a let-down in the one of the finals, where you think, "Shit, I just don't have it today". And Stefan played great.
The biggest difference psychologically between the final of a major and other matches is that it's the last match of the tournament for you, win or lose. That sometimes can be a negative because you've been having such a great time, you're winning and there's the thrill of knowing you're in a final.
That can be a problem when it's your first final. When it's your second or third and you're young, there's no reason to not believe you're going to make another one. Federer and Safin will be OK because they've been into the final of a major before and I'm sure they believe they're going to make some more in the future.
I think they'll be pretty relaxed. Relaxed, but really pumped.
There's no doubt it's a huge advantage to have played in a grand slam final before. Very often, a first-time grand slam finalist can be blown off the court, like Rainer Schuettler was against Andre Agassi in Melbourne last year. It's like, you're really happy, you can't believe you've made it there and you're sure you're playing somebody who is better than you.
By the time of the second one, you're only playing in a grand slam tournament because you want to make the final. Until the first one, you're not aiming at the final.
In my third final, in Australia in 1983, I was determined there was no way I was going to lose because I'd lost my previous final to Yannick Noah at the French Open and I didn't want to have that feeling again. In my mind, there was no fear at all.
Then again, if you've played four and lost four, as Kim Clijsters has, I'd say the fear would be growing.
Safin has won one grand slam final and lost another, whereas Federer has won his only final.
I believe that here, Safin has an advantage. Obviously, a player doesn't want to experience losing a major again because he knows what it feels like. But, more importantly, a player is going to learn so much from what happened in that losing experience.
He'll know that at one-set-to-love down, the match is not over; two-sets-to-one down, the match is not over.
In his loss to Thomas Johansson at the Australian Open in 2002, Safin won the first set but he didn't pull through. I'm sure that has taught him plenty.
If anything, Safin may be a little tired, but again, he's been there before, so he knows that it's just a matter of getting through one more match.
This one match may be one of the biggest of their lives, but the players will try to stick to the same preparation they've used right through the whole tournament.
Usually, the grand slam finals are played at a very good time, and today's 2pm start is a perfect time to play.
There's none of that waiting that there is before a night match. You can get in and practise at 11am, then have a little lunch. It's not an all-day thing, and you basically go into your second wind the moment you step on to the practice court and you don't leave it.
Your mind's focused and physically you're just up. Your heart rate's up because you're just keen to get on to the court.
You have a good breakfast, practise for your regular time before the match - usually about three hours.
On occasion, I'd practised immediately before the match. I did that at the French Open in '88, as Steffi Graf began her final against Natalien Zvereva, and that match was over in 27 minutes. I'd just gotten to the net and was warming up volleys, and it's 6-0, 3-0, and I'm like, "Oh, my God". But that works fine, too.
To me, you just want to get in there and get it started because it's just such a great, great feeling.
I can't imagine either of these two players - especially these two players - will be overawed by the occasion.
If you want to convince someone that they should pick up the game of tennis, this is the match to show them.
I can see why either player could win it, but as far as making a prediction on who will win it, I can't split them.
01-31-2004, 07:41 PM
Wilander rates Marat Safin (The Age)
By Mats Wilander
February 1, 2004
Picture: Ray Kennedy
Inside his mind
He's going to go in knowing that he's able to pull out a five-setter. He's going to have a lot of confidence because of that. He'll know that it's OK to get down, and it's OK to be up two sets to love - any situation is OK.
If he has enough energy left, and I think with two days off he should be all right, that knowledge is going to be to his advantage.
Safin has also been to a bunch of semi-finals at French and US Opens, and quarter-finals at Wimbledon. He's been virtually breathing on the trophy before.
He played almost perfect tennis against Pete Sampras at the US Open in 2000 when he won his first final, but he suffered a letdown in his second, when he lost to Thomas Johansson at the Australian Open in 2002.
I think rather than that being a bad thing, that loss will work in his favour. He should draw from that rather than from his first final.
This may be Safin's first tournament back after a long break through injury, and he may have come in unseeded, but he definitely won't be thinking he's done enough already.
He might think he's lucky to be in a final so soon, but he's shown that he's switched on and he wants to win.
Why he can win
Safin has been careful not to become too defensive at the start, because he's going to have to run two or three steps more than usual just to keep up with Federer's forehand.
He can win because he's going to able to take Federer's forehand on the baseline or just behind. Federer's ball bounces high, and because Safin's a big guy he can take the ball before it spins away from him and hit everything at shoulder height, as he did with Andre Agassi's second serve.
He'll then hit it too hard to Federer's backhand.
Wilander rates Roger Federer
By Mats Wilander
February 1, 2004
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Picture: Sebastian Costanzo
Inside his mind
Federer, I believe, is entering into unknown territory. He won the Wimbledon final last year against Mark Philippoussis playing flawless tennis, which is what Safin did in his first final against Pete Sampras.
But then look what happened to Safin in his second final, against Thomas Johansson at the Australian Open in 2002. Then, Safin won the first set but after just a few games in the second set it was virtually one set all, or worse, and he lost in four.
So that has to be a little bit of a concern for Federer.
He also needs to know that he's not going to play a perfect final again. It's possible to do that on the Rebound Ace at Melbourne Park, but it's easier at Wimbledon on grass, where there's faster points.
On this surface against a player such as Safin, who is going to keep the ball in play, it's going to be harder to find perfection.
Why he can win
Federer has a heavier and faster spin than anyone Safin will have played. Andy Roddick may be an exception there, but he doesn't play the angles as well as Federer does. The balls just seem to keep going away from you.
That's how he's going to win.
But what he can also do is slow the game down if it gets away from him. He won't have to retreat to a style of game that's not comfortable for him.
He can chip a few on his backhand, he can start to serve and volley. He's got the game to mix it up more so than Marat.
01-31-2004, 07:46 PM
FEDERER AND SAFIN GO FOR SECOND SLAM (Sky Sports)
Saturday 31st January 2004
Federer: Number One
Two of the most powerful and exciting players on the men's circuit go head to head in what promises to be a thrilling end to the year's first major tournament.
Newly crowned World number one, Roger Federer, and unseeded Marat Safin have only met on four previous occassions. Federer has the upper hand, having beaten his Russian opponent in three of those.
However, all his victories came on clay, whereas Safin took the win on carpet, giving him the advantage at Melbourne Park.
Few would have tipped the temperamental Russian to reach this late stage of the competition. Due to a serious wrist injury last year, Safin saw his ranking slip down to number 86. He had once held pole position.
Safin recently spent a month in Monte Carlo working on his fitness. He then played in the Hopman Cup and has since proved his return to form by getting through some very long and tough matches in this tournament.
One of those impressive victories was against Andy Roddick in the quarter finals. That went to five gruelling sets, as did his epic encounter against last year's champion, Andre Agassi.
In fact, at 18 hours and 50 minutes, Safin has played an incredible eight hours more than Federer in this competition. Only time will tell whether this will count against him or not.
What is for sure is that both players are determined to add the Australian Open to their grand slam titles. Each already holds one. Safin beat Pete Sampras in 2000 to win the US Open and Roger Federer is the current holder of the Wimbledon title.
Despite pushing his newly regained fitness to the limit so far, Safin believes he has what it takes to go all the way.
After his semi-final victory the Russian said "I didn't come here to lose in the fourth round or the quarter-finals. I came here to try to win it and I'm almost there, just one left to go.
"Everything's going my way at the moment."
Federer will believe that the same is true for him. Although not as dramatic as the Russian's victories, Federer's have been equally noteworthy.
He defeated Lleyton Hewitt and in-form Argentine David Nalbandian, before destroying Juan Carlos Ferrero in three easy sets.
"I am confident," said Federer about his chances to lift the winner's trophy. "I mean, have you ever seen a number one in the world who is not that confident?"
As well as being the fresher of the two, the Swiss maestro will be hoping to celebrate his ascent to the top spot with a major win.
“There is only one time you get to number one for the first time in your career. I really want to enjoy it," said Federer, the first Swiss man to top the rankings.
"It's a very nice feeling to be in a grand slam final again and I'm looking forward to it."
He will have to be at his best if he is to be beat Safin, who has been a true competitor this year The Russian also has a good record at the Australian Open. He reached the final here in 2001.
Federer knows that it would be unwise to dismiss Safin's chances.
"He's definitely one of the toughest," said the Swiss finalist. "You can't get up on him with a kick serve because he's so tall and so strong with his backhand.
"So he's really tough on this surface. Plus his movement is better on the hard courts than any other surface."
Whoever wins, with such talent, drive and desire on display, it's sure to be a duel to savour.
02-01-2004, 03:19 PM
Safin Emerges a Big Winner Despite Loss to Federer
Marat Safin's courageous path to the Australian Open final also proved to be his downfall. Safin played a total of 30 sets during the tournament, equaling the Open era record of 30 sets played by Harold Solomon at Roland Garros in 1976. (Solomon also lost the final.)
Safin came into the final having played draining back-to-back five-set matches against year-end World No. 1 Andy Roddick and defending champion Andre Agassi. Despite two days rest, Safin had lost some of his spark by the time he confronted Federer in the final. In contrast, the Swiss had dropped just two sets en route the final. (When he won Wimbledon last year, Federer conceded just one set.)
Apart from the fatigue of having spent 18 hours on court, Safin was also challenged by a tough draw. Following victories over defending US Open champion Roddick and defending Australian Open champion Agassi, Safin was attempting to become the first player since Michael Stich at Wimbledon in 1991 to beat three reigning Grand Slam champions en route to the title.
Despite losing in the Australian Open final for the second time in three years, Safin will consider the result an outstanding success. He had not won an ATP match since May last year and missed a big chunk of the season with a left wrist injury he sustained at Melbourne Park in 2003. Safin was forced to withdraw ahead of his schedule third-round match in Melbourne last year and missed the remaining three Grand Slam tournaments of the season.
Safin came into this year's tournament ranked No. 86 but will jump more than 50 places to No. 35 when the new ATP rankings are released Monday. He will also be in second place in the ATP Champions Race, giving him an early boost in his quest to qualify for Tennis Masters Cup Houston.
from atp website
02-01-2004, 03:23 PM
ooh 35 thats superb! i cant wait for the rankings to come out! Thanks Nicki! :kiss:
02-01-2004, 04:11 PM
Q. Did you get encouraged when you saw that?
ROGER FEDERER: No. I just take the situation the way it is. You know, I don't want to say I feel sorry for him, but I know exactly what he feels. Because if I would have been in his position, I would have felt the same way.
You know, then the people get into it. It's not easy. Like you say, he was trying. They almost gave him a hard time, I thought. Because he's not there to joke around. He's there to win the Australian Open. That was I thought kind of heavy on him.
But he's a fair guy. It was a pleasure to play him, like always, I've said before the matches.
02-01-2004, 04:18 PM
It's even gonna be 32 I believe, no?
seeding, qualifying and all won't be a problem anymore, that's just the cherry on the cake!
keep working Marat and no one will be able to keep you from great victories!
02-01-2004, 05:10 PM
and this is just the beginning :devil:
02-01-2004, 08:33 PM
and this is just the beginning :devil:
02-04-2004, 12:29 PM
Teah!!!just a begining~Marat has lots of chances!
02-07-2004, 12:27 PM
very interesting article with comments from Mats Wilander -->
Stuffing Sampras was just too much to live up to
February 1, 2004
Marat Safin's biggest enemy is that he knows what he is capable of, says ex-coach Mats Wilander.
Marat Safin burst onto the scene and blew Pete Sampras away in the final of the US Open in 2000 to win his first grand slam. It was the only time Sampras was outgunned in a big final, and Safin beat him at his own game.
As a 20-year-old, that was a great win for Safin and obviously it did him some good, but it also did some harm. Suddenly, he had perfection to compare himself with, and that's an impossible situation for anyone.
I was his coach in 2001, but if I'd been his coach back then I would have said: "That was a great performance, but you know what? That's not really allowed. You're not allowed to take that many chances and play that well."
He was never going to play a match like that again, and yet he could be very critical of himself in later years because he felt he should be able to play like that all the time.
I would say nobody has a better all-round game than Marat Safin. Roger Federer is obviously very close, but these are the two most natural players of the past 10 years.
It was thanks to his talent that Safin beat Sampras. He was one of the best juniors in the world because of it and he remains one of the best players in the world because of it.
But despite being given this gift, his win at Flushing Meadows more than three years ago remains his only grand slam title.
That must be really frustrating.
Safin does get frustrated, and that comes from his being too talented. Often, he shows that frustration on the court by smashing his racquet or getting very down on himself for long periods.
He's also known for making entertaining comments at press conferences. He's seen as being a little mad. Well, he's mad, but I think you'd find very few people who are not mad at this level. But he is mad on the outside. On the inside, Safin's not that crazy. He's very mellow, he's funny, he's got a great sense of humour.
I have a lot respect for Marat, but that's not because of his tennis. It's because of his ways - the way he is around the court, the way he says hello to all the players, the way other players think he's conducted his life. He's just not going to take any shit.
There's an aura around him, too - in the locker room, he's warm and people warm to him. If people who watch him on the tennis court don't see that, maybe it means tennis brings out the worst in him.
Safin's very honest, but maybe he needs to become a little more honest with himself on court. It's not realistic for him to expect to hit winners all over the place all the time. That win over Sampras gave him a lot of respect but he lost some of it because guys realised if you stayed with him for a while, maybe he'd beat himself.
I've seen matches in which he did that, but I've also seen matches in which he played scrappy tennis and was able to come through, and I know he's got that within him. That's why it was such a good test for him on Thursday night against Andre Agassi.
He's probably more surprised than anybody about where he is now, but he's proved to himself that he doesn't have to be 100 per cent physically. He can guts it out.
Mats Wilander is a three-time Australian Open winner and former coach of Marat Safin. He is also Sweden's Davis Cup captain.
02-07-2004, 05:21 PM
I enjoyed reading it so much. Some peopel are so talented in speaking about Marat.
02-07-2004, 09:05 PM
Danke Andrea :kiss:
02-07-2004, 10:06 PM
Great article! Thanks Andrea! :kiss:
02-10-2004, 07:03 AM
Ah yes, I read that article in the actual paper here on the day of the final last week.
02-14-2004, 07:12 AM
Hi guys! :bounce:
Remember maratsafin.com, they used to have this fan columns part. Well I was surfing the net and found out that Isabelle still writes about our favorite man, Marat Safin. Here are her new articles >>>>
Well Done the Red Bull!
Well. I must confess that, like Marat, I too have "missed tennis". How I've missed it! That is not a strange thing to say in my case, because all my passion for the game took an extended vacation when the Alpha Wolf took his hiatus last year.
But he's back - and oh boy is he back - the black sheep, the underdog, the unseeded player has carved a place for himself in the Australian Open Finals once more. I am once more exhausted with lack of sleep and mental and physical fatigue, cheering him on - on my feet! - and I have never had a bigger grin on my face. In fact, I have a new name for him, that just kept ringing in my head these past two weeks: The Red Bull.
Obviously the Red stands for his Russian blood, and the famously fiery temperament. The Bull, which in the past could have meant his hard-headedness and the steam erupting in his famous on-court implosions, now means something significantly, if subtly, different - it now stands for an incredible stamina and self-determination, an unwavering, stubborn fighting attitude that is just blowing everyone away.
Talking about bulls is not the same as facing them in the ring.
-- Mexican Proverb
I think it is not a far cry to say that Marat has the world flabbergasted at this point - not the least the young American World Number One and the other Great American Champion. To come out practically back from the abyss and plough your way through against seemingly impossible odds and set up a Quarterfinals match against the Number One Seed is no small feat. To stand there and steadfastly take every shot he has to give and calmly defeat him is a glorious achievement. And to go from that grueling match and face the last great legend of the sport and quietly humble him - that is beyond all measure.
But that is not what is so surprising - at least, not to me. I have always maintained that Marat is capable of such feats of magnificence. I look upon these victories not as his rewards, but his due. I feel not so much the satisfaction of triumph, as the gratification of a promise fulfilled. The promise that is the luminous talent of one long-unseen-but-never-forgotten Marat Safin.
We think adversity itself is darkness, but the reality of the darkness is that it can serve to illuminate the light. Without pain there is no pleasure, without valleys there are no mountain tops and without struggle there is no sense of achievement.
He vowed to the world that he is a new man. I disagree. I think it is not so much that he is a changed man, but an improved one. The fishing in Monte Carlo must be really good! : But seriously - if he had to take a break from tennis at all, it could not have come at a more prodigious time. His time off has done wonders for him, and in all positive ways. He learned to miss tennis for himself - which is to say that he finally had the silence and the solitude to ponder about his chosen career and finally make the decisive choice that yes, it is what he enjoys doing, and yes, it is what he wants to do.
That decisiveness, that resolution, is what finally helps him now to deal with all the "pressure" that has so burdened him before. Marat took a good long look inside himself and finally realized that he was born to play tennis - and, more importantly, that it is a profession that he enjoys being in. He finally has a sense of control, and it reflects in his game in a profound way.
He has pushed himself, he has taken the discipline in his own hands, regarding his training and the punishing physical regime it takes to hone and sculpt his body to the optimum form and fitness that he needs to be in. He is now taking mature responsibility about practice, and training, and discipline and focus. And restraint. That is the biggest improvement of all.
No longer is he the reckless young blood who played such a high-risk and frustratingly inconsistent game. He still dares to take great and breathtaking risks, but it is now tempered with self-control, and the resolute, deadly intent to fight for every point. Whether on his serve or the opponent's. The quality of his tennis for the past fortnight is testament to that fact. The old Marat would not have lasted into the second week, especially after having been away for so long. The new Marat just goes in there with the tenacity and stubbornness of a bull; and these, combined with his natural blazing talent, eventually crumbles the man on the other side of the net. The new Marat is like a brick wall - he just stands there, stony and silent, and you either tear him down or you knock yourself out trying. It is no longer a matter of finding the chink in his armor and working from there. You have to take him down brick by brick, or smash yourself against him in the effort.
"When someone tells me there is only one way to do things, it always lights a fire under my butt. My instant reaction is, "I'm going to prove you wrong!" -- Picabo Street
There was a time, not too long ago, when that would have been the cry from the Safin battlefield. Not so now. I have always observed that he plays his most brilliant tennis when the spotlight is not focused on him, when he is under no pressure to prove himself. And although he is indeed the underdog in this year's Australian Open, I have come to the conclusion that it is more than that. Marat, it seems, has at last conquered his demons. There have been a few uncertain hints about his "mental strength" these past two weeks, but they have been that - uncertain. For the most part, people are now talking about Marat with an admiration that is almost reverential. They are in awe of the man. On a quite different level than the past brilliant US Open 2000 Men's Champion. That was the seed. This is the promise taking fruition. And the rewards are sweet to reap. Above all, more than praise and wonderment and compliments, the reaction to the new Marat Safin is one that I have no doubt he will be even more pleased with: there are quiet words of respect.
The formula for the new Marat is simple -
"A professional is a person who can do his best at a time when he doesn't particularly feel like it." - Alistair Cooke
He has at last grown up.
None of the frantic thinking, the anxious grasping for tactics and strategies, none of the impatient, desperate shots to finish the point, none of the erratic mood swings. All right. Significantly less of all of it. Instead, there is the perfect focus, the intense concentration. And still I say that he is not "thinking on court". He doesn't need to - in fact, it's why he has gotten so far, why he has downed both the World Number One and the defending Champion. He has found the form and confidence he displayed back in 2000 - and that is by going purely with his instincts. I truly believe that is the key with Marat. When he starts to "think" is when things are apt to go wrong - the third set of his semifinal match is a primary example. Once he starts worrying that he just has to hold serve, once he becomes painfully aware of each point, once he lets the outside world in - that's the danger point for him.
Marat works best on autopilot. That is the simple truth. His natural talent and gut instincts are more than enough, and will carry him through any game - that is how much he is blessed - so long as he concentrates and focuses. The hard work is outside the court - the preparation, the planning of strategy and defense with a coach maybe, the working out and the practice, the perfecting of his arsenal of weapons, which are considerable. But once inside the court, then Marat plays best when he lets everything go and transforms himself into a cold, merciless tennis machine. That is why he finds it hard to explain the significant victories of his career - defeating Pete Sampras, and now Andre Agassi. Those matches are classic, and a prime illustration of the brilliance of Marat relying on raw talent and gut instinct. "How did you do it?" "Man, I just don't know!"
"The longer I live, the more I am certain that the great difference between the great and the insignificant, is energy -- invincible determination -- a purpose once fixed and then death or victory." -- Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton
That is Marat at his finest.
From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.
Arthur Ashe (1943-1993)
At the end of the day, all that Marat can find words to say is how much he appreciates the support of "the people". In that aspect he has not changed one bit. He still does it for the spectators. "I hope you enjoyed the match tonight&ldots;" he says shyly, trembling with fatigue where he stands. He cannot find the customary words of sportsmanship and praise for his colleague's efforts, he stumbles through a reply of how he came back to the form that he is playing in now, even his smile is exhausted. But he endears himself to the public by once more apologizing for having defeated their fierce favorite, and promising another great show for them in two days' time. For Marat, it is still always "for the people".
"A hero is someone who the moment prior to becoming one was a reckless, irresponsible dreamer." -- Rick Beneteau
A very happy birthday to you, Marat. You have, again and as always, given us "the present" of the great joy of watching you play, and might I also say a great big hug welcome back to you! We have missed you sorely - here's hoping you won't leave us for too long ever again. For as long as there is the Alpha Wolf to cheer on, you can count on it that we will be there screaming as hoarse as the rest of the newly-awed world. What a comeback. What a great road to the Finals. And whatever the results come Sunday, what a fantastic way to start the year - in more ways than one. Here's to you - much love, and light, and happiness. And more blazing glory ahead! Cheers!
I Believe In You!
02-14-2004, 07:14 AM
here's another one >>>>
Chin Up, Marat!
Oh boy oh boy oh boy. What a trying life it is to be a Marat fan! What a great disappointment it was indeed – in fact, what an anticlimactic end to this year’s Australian Open. For both players! It was so painfully obvious how nervous they both were, and what a sloppy game of tennis they produced as a result. The stats reflect this – the swing of breaks in the early set, the unforced errors early on, it was as if they were both unsure exactly how to start, and never did get properly started. In Professor JRR Tolkien’s legendary books, the hobbits have a custom of giving away presents on their birthdays. That is what Marat did today – he gave Roger Federer a “mathom”.
This is what I meant when I said that Marat most emphatically should NOT “think” on court – it was the nerves again, his last AU Finals was probably on his mind, or his head-to-head stats with Roger Federer (RF beat him 3 times out of 3), or the fact that Roger won both Wimbledon and the Masters Cup, or perhaps he was just desperate to underscore his “comeback” by seizing the first Grand Slam of the Year. He internalized all the pressure again, and sought the prize too hard. What a pity, because Roger was playing so poorly – I think that was only 40%best of Roger’s tennis, and no exaggeration – that Marat could have easily taken him in straight love sets, if only Marat had remembered to trust himself and just let go.
He just couldn’t seem to find his groove, his rhythm – he hit the ball back so indecisively that Roger for all his own problems was able to find a winner with almost each one. His service deserted him – I just wanted to tear my hair out and wail and scream. In fact, I did! I even switched over to the Japanese feed so I wouldn’t have to hear the commentators’ inevitable slamming of Marat’s “mental strength”. At least my dad was kind enough not to tease me as he usually does when Marat “gets high-blood [pressure]” (in my dad’s words) and self-destructs. If he had done, I would have murdered him! :-) *Sigh* It was just that kind of a day.
Still – and this is a crucial point that Marat would do well to consider – still, Roger played so poorly, largely because he was so daunted by the very shadow that Marat casts, whatever else Roger was pressured about, for his part. Marat intimidated him. That was clear and certain. Same with Andy Roddick. Same with Andre Agassi. For all the controversy about Marat’s game, the fact is undeniable: Marat topples the greats, Marat destroys the legends. The fact that he doesn’t step up to claim the pedestal is inconsequential. It is enough that he is a great threat, injured, in top shape, focused, or no. So they fear him, and with good reason. Marat’s very presence is enough to shake the other player’s confidence – he only has to follow it through with his game, to keep his focus and concentration. In fact, at the start of the Australian Open, all the seeded players reportedly rushed to look at the draws – not to check out other seeds they were up against, but to determine if the big Russian was standing in their way. This speaks so highly of Marat’s indisputable natural talent, and the respect and regard his peers hold for him. Truly, the greatest obstacle he faces, at any time, is only – ironically – himself.
Marat’s determination and hunger is evident with his statements, “I am not here to make up the numbers. Of course I came here to try to win it,” and “I want to finish this year No.1.” Bold statements from a bold man, and why not? He is certainly more than capable of delivering on his promise, so long as he gains his groove and remains consistent, like he did on the road to the Finals in this year’s Australian Open. In my last article I mentioned a lot of his improvements. Here they are in a more specific list: He had his serve, no question about it. Such a weapon that is for him. And he held serve. Incredibly important – in his own words, “no more giving presents”. Plus, he had patience on his serve, knocking out the surprise and breathtaking winners when his gut instinct told him to. And he attacked on his opponent’s serve as well, again going with instinct, and thus fighting for every point. He just switched off, played his own high-risk game on his serve, and forced errors on his opponent’s. He played every point like he had nothing to lose, which was exactly true. All of this, combined with his natural talent and intimidating presence, saw him through five-set matches. It is just too bad that he lost it all at crunch time. He was so lost at one point, he was standing on the wrong side for his service! He neglected his routine as well, which worked so well for him in the quarters and semis, when he deliberately made the opponent play at his own pace by asking for the towel and slowing the pace down. Everything just fell apart.
But at the end of the day, Marat, as ever, won back the hearts of the crowd by being his endearingly charming, candid self. He gave credit where it was due, and made no excuses and no apologies for his own disappointing performance. “I’m just sorry that I ran out of gas today,” he said with a tired, disappointed half-smile. And in the end, despite my own misgivings and criticisms (hey – true friends are at once both the most fiercely loyal supporters and the toughest critics!) – I believe him. He wasn’t strong mentally today, but then he’d given his all – and then some – in two titanic matches leading up to this moment. The difference between the Australian Open 2002 and 2004 is this: that this time, the journey is what mattered.
Please keep that in mind, Marat. My own raging feelings of bitter disappointment and frustration are less to do with finally socking it to all the non-believers out there, and more to do with worry for you. The fact that your razor-sharp game of the past fortnight suddenly disappeared into thin air worried me. Of course it did. The fact that you looked so lost and desperate on court worried me. Naturally. And then to see you resignedly heft your bag on your shoulder and wave a half-hearted goodbye to the crowd while the world media were still clicking away – that worries me most of all. It is so unlike you!
I hope you know that the fact that you are once more competing in Grand Slams, and getting to the Finals, is nothing to brush lightly aside. I hope you know that the other players are “happy that he’s back, he’s a nice guy… but we’re scared at the same time!” :-) I hope you know that you have gained more than you lost today – because despite my fears, when I eventually switched back to the English channel for the awarding ceremonies, it was to hear the sports commentators remarking “what a great thing it is for Men’s Tennis that the Big Russian is once more in the game”, and accepting without question with your simple statement that today was a tough day for you simply because you had had such a tough road to get to it.
Whereas in the past the consensus for your loss today would have been oversimplification of your “mental weakness”, this time it’s a different story, even taking into consideration the low-quality tennis that both players produced today. Your great achievement these past two weeks has been to state that you are the new Marat, the improved Marat, and you have confirmed and cemented that declaration with your performance for the past fortnight. I hope you know that you leave Melbourne this year not with tongue-in-cheek comments and shakes of the head, but rather with solemn approving nods that affirm the newfound respect you have fought for and deservedly earned.
So chin up, Marat – and I hope you take away the knowledge of how thrilling it has been, and how much joy you have given us, “the people”, to watch you play again. Again let me say, it’s the journey that mattered. Hail the Alpha Wolf – even your fellow tennis players concede this! It’s great to have you back. Now on to the next goal in sight – and please take this last thought away with you:
“Far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory, nor defeat." -– Theodore Roosevelt
02-14-2004, 12:54 PM
Thank you :)
As always an amazing read.
02-14-2004, 03:18 PM
so true! Thanks! :)
02-15-2004, 01:50 PM
I`m amazed by Isabelle. :worship:
02-15-2004, 07:53 PM
What was the last time she won the Pulitzer Prize?
02-20-2004, 02:00 PM
here is the article from the German Tennis Mag (sorry for my English)
Marat Safin - Victories from Nowhere
Between sky and earth
Justine Henin-Hardenne sends greetings to the sky. Roger Federer fell on the floor. But the champions from Melbourne did not get even the biggest attention. The star of the tourney was Marat Safin. He reached amazingly the final.
No Happy End. At least not from russian view. And also not from the view of many Tennis Romantics, who wished a story like this to happen: A highly gifted Tennisplayer with slope to night life and beautiful woman gets injuried so bad on his wrist that he already thinks about the end of his career. One year later he returns to the platform. Motivated, through-trained, pure with himself. And beats the new heros of the Szene.
The man, from which is spoken, is named Marat Safin, 24 years old. And that at the end it didnt least for the victory at the Australien Open, has the reason that Safin played three fourset matches (against Vahely, Nieminen, Blake) and three fiveset matches (against Todd Martin, Roddick, Agassi), as he said himself "I run out of gas". Nothing proofs it more than this numbers: In his semifinal against Agassi the Russian fired 33 aces and he didnt make one double fault while in the final his service statistic was weak: 2 aces, 5 double faults.
7:6 6:4 6:2 were the lucky numbers for the Swiss in the final against Safin.
Federer himself commentated dry: "At least I`m the only one who can win the Grand Slam this year". Curiousity, Federer overwhelmed his finalopponent with compliments at the beginning of the tourney. As he knew that Safin will achieve big things in Melbourne. "He has so much power, as well on the forehand site as on the backhand site. He decrees about intimidated Serve- and Groundstrokes." Safin bravely gave the compliment back: "Federer is Sampras. He is unbelievably talented, has great hands and an amazing serve."
Five Blondes for Marat
How is this possible, that with nobody who counted on him, he could get himself back on the light just with one tourney? Since the end of April last year Safin didnt win an official match on the tour. The former world number one sank to position 86 on the rankings. Safin says: "I couldnt play for nearly one year. So i had a lot of time to think about my future." Maybe the colloquy between Safin, the playbody, who gave away the Australien Open Final two years ago, because he reportendly amused himself with five blondes in the night before the final, AND Safin, the Tennismadness, took place with a visit at the Yosemite National Park in California.
Safin swear himself to give everything one more time. Together with his coach Denis Golovanov, a childhoodfriend ("I know him since I`m twelf years old. We get along so good that we can travel 42 weeks together in the year at the tour.") and Fitness Trainer Walt Landers, who already worked with Pete Sampras, he started the Comeback in December in Monte Carlo. Safin carried weights, torture himself with medicineballs, run mountains up and down and sprinted in the Athleticsstadium.
The work got paid. Safin, who started unseeded in the tourney, won against Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi, respectively in fantastic fiveset matches. If Safin continues playing like this his prognos could become true: "Between Federer, Roddick, Ferrero and me will be a big Rivilaty in the next years, like between Becker, Sampras and Agassi earlier."
02-20-2004, 02:39 PM
the thought of that article is what i actually used to compensate for Marat's loss. it really hit the spot.
02-20-2004, 02:51 PM
Thanks for translating that andy, much appreciated!
"At least I`m the only one who can win the Grand Slam this year" go for it Roger :D
02-20-2004, 03:46 PM
vielen Dank :kiss:
02-20-2004, 11:04 PM
Andrea, thanks for the translation!! :kiss:
Nice article! :)
02-21-2004, 05:56 PM
here is the french inter from court central english version coming sunday or monday :)
02-21-2004, 06:00 PM
02-21-2004, 06:03 PM
02-21-2004, 06:05 PM
02-21-2004, 06:07 PM
02-24-2004, 12:52 PM
thanks a lot Helena!
02-24-2004, 12:54 PM
here is an article from Australien Tennis translated by Vanessa! THANKS A LOT! :D
Article from Australian Tennis
The Australian Open 2004 marks the beginning of what should be a fascinating new era in men's tennis. As the Sampras/Agassi period recedes into history, Roger Federer will continue to grow in stature as one of the greatest players the world has seen. He may dominate the game for the next eight years or more.
Federer is the new Sampras. And Marat Safin, the powerful Russian he so brilliantly demolished in teh tournament's last daylight final, could well be the new Agassi (though considerably larger)
The Federer/Safin rivalry should be one for The Ages. Other young players such as Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero and 17 year old Rafael Nadal, America's Andy Roddick, Argentina's David Nalbandian and - let's hope - Australia's Lleyton Hewitt may have an occasional impact. But if Federer and Safin maintain fitness and motivation, they will stay ahead of the pack.
The new era was foreshadowed by Federer's 2003 Wimbledon triumph. Some doubts about his temperament, however, were raised by his fourth-round loss to Nalbandian at the U.S Open, and his Davis Cup debacle against Hewitt after serving for victory at 5-3 in the third set.
Now, those doubts have gone. Federer dispatched both Hewitt and Nalbandian - his bogeymen since teenage years - on his way to the Melbourne Park final. And the tennis he produced against Safin was the best I have seen in an Australian final in the Open Era. On this form he is, as John McEnroe pointed out, a credible contender for the Grand Slam. He also has a chance of equalling, or surpassing, Sampras' record total of 14 Grand Slam crowns. After all, the Swiss player is only 22 and is much more accomplished on clay than Sampras was.
If the man from Basel was the stunning genius of the Open, dropping only two sets, and displaying a breathtaking array of phenomenol shots, the unseeded Safin won the hearts of many with his heroic struggle. When the draw was made, scarcely one tennis writer observed what a dangerous floater he might be. He soon emerged as an enormous threat with a string of five-set victories, claiming among his scalps the then World No. 1 Roddick, and the No. 4 Agassi.
But the effort finally took its toll. By the final Safin had been on court for 18 hours, 51 minutes, compared to Federer's 12 hours, 40. Though fitter than at any time in his life, his physical resources were depleted, and he badly needed to win the first set. Against Agassi he had served 33 aces and no double-faults. Yet not once in the first-set tie-break did his thunderous first serve go into court. In the second set he began to fray and incurred a code warning for smashing a racquet. Federer ruthlessly applied the coup de grace.
Safin has always been an intriguing character, like someone out of a Dostoyevsky novel - humorous and affable, yet deeply complex and given to moods of self-doubt and frustration. Last year, when plagued by injuries, he generally had a wretched time as his ranking rumbled from No.3 to No.86 at the start of the Open.
During the U.S Open, the tournament he won in 2000, his injured left wrist was in a cast which did not come off for six weeks. He camped in the famous Yosemite National Park, slept in a tent, hired a boat and fished. And he did a lot of thinking. He decided to fulfill his potential and approach his career more rationally.
In the Australian final of 2002 Safin had given a poor effort. His then coach, Mats Wilander, wasn't in Australia to guide him, and he invited three anonymous blondes to the player's box. Once before, he had been fined for not trying at the Open, and some suspected he was almost guilty of the same offence again. He lost to Thomas Johansson, a Swede with only a fraction of Safin's talent.
This time, Safin engaged an American fitness expert, Walt Landers and spent four weeks at his base of Monte Carlo working hard in readiness for the Open. He cut down on beer and cigarettes, of which he is fond, and got into perfect condition. He also invited his mother and his steady girlfriend to accompany him Down Under. How it all paid off!
Safin however, was no fitter or more dedicated than Federer, who had sacked his Swedish coach, Peter Lundgren, before Christmas, but who retains his own Swiss-based fitness expert and travels with a personal physio. Peak physical fitness has played a large part in the rise of Federer, giving him greater strength and more time to play his exquisite strokes.
Everything worked like Swiss clockwork for the intelligent and gentlemanly Roger. But Marat too, can be hightly pleased by the results of his endeavours. He surely is back as a major force. We can't wait to see what happens the next time these two very gifted superstars - and good friends - meet on centre court.
02-24-2004, 12:57 PM
another thing translated by Vanessa :)
"From the same magazine. 'Marat Safin wondered what all the security guards were waiting for when he reported for an escort to his first-round Australian Open match on Vodafone Arena. After ten minutes waiting, an edgy Safin finally asked what was causing the hold-up. 'We are waiting for Mr Safin,' one of the security guards explained. Safin shook his head, clearly dismayed at the mix-up. 'I'm Safin - Safin is me!' he exclaimed before storming off with the embarrassed security guards scrambling behind.' (My comment - maybe next time they should show the security people a photo of who they're supposed to be looking after! What did the guards expect - Marat to be wearing a name tag? *lol* But, as always, Marat comes up with something funny to say. 'I'm Safin -Safin is me!' I love it! :-) Also from 'Australian Tennis' Feb 2004 some funny quotes from the tourny (You already know Marat's 'famous' line but here it comes again): Best John McEnroe Impersonation: Andy Roddick, disputing a line call with the umpire: 'No shit it was close. Thankyou Captain Obvious.' McEnroe himself from the commentary box: 'I wish I'd thought of that.' (My comment: What a cheeky boy! I hope he doesn't speak to his mother like that! :-} Best Self-Diagnosis #1: Marat Safin: 'I'll have some beers for the muscles to relax, and for myself, also. You really need that. I really do.' Best self diagnosis #2: Juan Carlos Ferrero on his groin injury: 'It's a little bit broke.'"
02-24-2004, 01:02 PM
Why do such things only happen to Marat? I can understand that people did not recognise him when he asked for transport during USO 2000, but AO 2004? :eek: :haha:
02-24-2004, 01:04 PM
HERE COME THE GLADIATORS
Move over Russell Crowe, the real gladiators of men’s tennis have arrived.
CLOSE your eyes and imagine the ultimate men’s tennis final. You could be watching for up to five hours, so the contestants had better be worth the effort. Sure, we can all appreciate the technical skill with which shots are executed: that elegant ball toss and smooth service action, the perfectly judged laser backhand down the line followed by a low-angled, cross-court slice forehand volley. Ah, another topspin and he scrambles to reach an impossible overhead smash...
But what does he look like? What is under that big, baggy shirt, and when is he going to get hot enough to remove it? Can we please get another close-up of that warrior-rugged, squared-jawed, perfectly-angled, olive-skinned face. He just smashed another racquet into the court, mangling it beyond recognition. Animal!
Men’s tennis has never been in better hands, or should I say legs, faces...torsos. For so long, the passionate tennis spectator has had to suffer the passionless maneuoverings of top players who had about as much charisma as a supermarket chain.
It seems cruel to name names, but as he didn’t turn up for the Wimbledon Parade of Champions last July, Ivan Lendl heads the list of past charisma-bypass champions. Jim Courier remains a fascinating personality in retirement, but he never made spectators salivate. Ditto Michael Stich, Petr Korda, Thomas Muster, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Kevin Curren, Michael Chang and the Big Man himself, Pete Sampras. Only Boris Becker truly possessed what the movie star moguls call Factor X: a mix of talent, sex appeal, intrigue, angst, pride, glamor, and chutzpah.
Then Pat Rafter emerged. A contemporary of Sampras’, nobody much appreciated the Queenslander’s mass appeal until he won the US Open for the first time in 1997. In women’s tennis, you don’t have to win titles to get on the cover of magazines so long as you are blonde, extremely well-proportioned and feel comfortable making bra ads. But male players can’t get by on model looks alone.
“I definitely wouldn’t say I was good looking,” Rafter told Britain’s Ace Tennis Magazine this year. “I’m just normal. The sex symbol thing all comes along with succeeding. I don’t think it matters what you look like. It’s success that is the attractive thing. It’s because of what I’ve done and because of my personality that the girls love me, I suppose. You see a lot of good-looking women with ordinary people like me and you wonder why. Then you realise he’s done this or that, and that’s what attracts people.”
Hicham Arazi is a sassy, crowd-loving and talented player from Morocco ranked 41 in the world (on the old entry points system). Imagine if he’d won 10 Grand Slam titles instead of his lone ATP Tour championship in Casablanca? The man would be flashing his brilliant, let’s-party smile on every glossy from here to Monte Carlo.
Instead, we’ve had to pretend that Andre Agassi is sort of sexy on account of his six Grand Slams, up and down career, quick-step schoolboy walk, and love match with the sort of sexy women’s Grand Slammer, Steffi Graf. Agassi is a fascinating personality, no doubt about it, and he gives the best interviews. But sexy?
Behind the scenes at the ATP HQ they know what sexy is and have decided to push the envelope, inspired by the marketing success of women celebrity players, Venus, Serena, Anna and Mary. We call them by their surnames when we talk tennis, but when we think “lust or disgust”, only a Christian name will suffice.
The curiously titled “New Balls Please” campaign has thrust a new cast of talented, hungry, mostly good-looking tennis pros of between 18 and 23 into the glare of the prurient tennis fan. Here come the gladiators, staring with a certain super model aloofness in black and white photographs on posters, billboards and advertisements around the globe. They are destined to re-vitalise tennis in time for the imminent retirement of those “Old Balls” Agassi, Sampras and Rafter.
Lleyton, Marat, Gustavo, Juan Carlos, Roger, Tommy, Jan-Michael, Scud, Nicolas, Magnus are the tennis rock stars of the future and, by all accounts, most of them are eager to whip up a bit of Beatle-mania in the autograph queues. “It’s fantastic to be put in such a group of elite players,” said Hewitt after his Wimbledon photo-shoot with Kuerten. “You’ve got the Kuertens, the Philippoussises, the Safins, the Ferreros, who obviously are the future of tennis as well. But you’ve still got to prove it. You have the high guys up there, the Rafters, the Agassis, the Samprases, and then the newer guys 23 and under sort of coming up biting at their heels.”
ATP Tour spokesman Matt Rapp says the “New Balls Please” campaign is about increasing awareness of the next generation of top players. “The campaign is about attitude,” he says. “The theme is New Blood – New Attitude. The guys with the guts and games to take on the established order.”
Sounds like a movie script, which should suit Gambill and Philippoussis. Following Kournikova’s lead, Jan-Michael is grooming himself for a career in film. “I met with a casting director of Star Trek Voyager over the Christmas break,” he revealed during the men’s tournament in LA last July. “I think I have a fairly good shot at getting a small part in the upcoming year. It’s just a matter of getting a part for me – timing.” Philippoussis may look a little stiff in some of his interviews, but who knows what he is capable of, given a little direction and some meaty dialogue?
“A couple of years ago, Anthony Quinn saw me at the US Open, and then called my agent and said he liked my looks and would like me to play the part of his son in a movie,” Philippoussis said. “I said sure to playing the part of Anthony Quinn’s son, of course. I was going to do it, but they changed the scheduling of the movie.”
Now, if I was a Hollywood director, objectively, coldly casting my eye over the ATP Tour Media Guide for my Top 10 list of bankable leading men to star in GLADIATOR 2, the following players would be given a screen test (in order of priority).
1. Marat Safin
Simply the best-looking male player on the planet, possibly the best-looking male as well. A true gladiator, a perfectly proportioned being and a tennis equivalent to Leo Tolstoy if only he could get that temper under control. Still, great champions should possess a healthy dose of madness and Marat needs to smash racquets the way some people need to crack their knuckles.
He is also extremely dry-witted and gives entertaining interviews. At the Tennis Masters Series in Toronto (which he won), he explained his addiction to racquet smashing. “Sometimes, you need this. And I think the people, they understand this. Because we are human beings and we need to try to break it because it’s only a racquet, it’s nothing else. But I know it’s not very nice on the court. It doesn’t look very, I would say, very educated.”
Some of Safin’s shots look like they might make holes in the court. In a few years time, when he has collected a number of Grand Slam titles, he will be shattering many women’s hearts as well.
2. Patrick Rafter
I’m sorry Pat, you were a good sort before you won those US Opens and you will continue to light up the court whenever that dodgy shoulder enables you to play at, or even below, your peak. Any match is worth watching if Rafter is involved, hence the incredible ratings lift on British TV when he played the Wimbledon final against Sampras. (Over 8.8 million people - 38 percent of the viewing audience - tuned in to BBC1, the best figures since 1992.)
Rafter has evolved into a warrior on court with a dashing serve-volley game; he’s smart, instinctive, courageous, versatile and incredibly down to earth. He’s had one girlfriend for a long time, comes from a big, happy family, gives time and money to children’s charities, and would cross over hot coals to play Davis Cup for his country. No wonder some fans call him Saint Pat – the man epitomises Rudyard Kipling’s “If” poem. Other players want to be like Rafter, hence Roger Federer’s and Lleyton Hewitt’s copycat ponytail. Don’t they know? Superstars start their own fashion trends.
3. Gustavo Kuerten
Forget the movies, if there is anyone you would choose to go out to dinner with, Guga would have to top the list. This Brazilian has maracas in his joints. He has a wide smile, a lateral sense of humor, is generous to his fans, and often looks like Don Quixote on the tennis court, soldiering on when his bones appear to be crumbling beneath him.
He is nice to his grandmother and helps look after his mentally handicapped younger brother, Guilherme, giving him all his trophies. The only trouble with Guga is, if you ran your fingers through his hair they might not come out again.
4. Lleyton Hewitt
This New Ball is the very essence of adolescence, with his cocky cap turned backwards as he rolls into the Land of the Giants. When Hewitt hits the zone, the effect is electrifying and every spectator in the house gets a charge. He’d make a great Mercutio to Pat Rafter’s Romeo – ready to commit insane acts of bravery, just oozing intensity and desire.
5. Andre Agassi
The saga of Agassi, now that he’s 30, is so involved and dramatic it would make a far better movie than a Coliseum flick. The bald-headed Las Vegan has been around the block many times, yet still we do not tire of his presence, particularly with the addition to his entourage of the intense fraulein Steffi Graf. Agassi speaks his mind, he toils hard, his groundstrokes are superlative, and the shiny bald pate lends him the aura of an advanced being, a Yoda in the making with a few more galaxies to traverse. You need one in every block-buster.
6. Mark Philippoussis
When the Scud beat Sjeng Schalken in five sets at Wimbledon this year, the next morning’s papers featured large photographs of him with one exhausted fist raised against a glary background. It was surreal, heroic, awesomely Greek God-like, as if Philippoussis had single-handedly beaten back a tribe of marauding barbarians.
A week later, the “matured” Mark 2 was again the anti-hero of Australian tennis after he withdrew from the Davis Cup. Such contradiction makes for frustrating, compelling, push-me/pull-you viewing. Besides, his dark, unhappy looks and mighty 193cm frame are the most photogenic around.
7. Jan-Michael Gambill
Oh, how beauty can be a curse. This 23-year-old American is working hard to prove he’s not just a pretty face, and worth more professional respect than being honored in People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful People of the Year” list.
Objectively, he’s a knockout: tall, perfectly proportioned and tight-muscled with straight white teeth, drippy deep-set blue eyes, tipped hair etc. Now that he’s starting to win a few more matches we may, in turn, see a bit more character leak out.
8. Juan Carlos Ferrero
The crown prince of men’s tennis – on clay, anyway. Again, the 20-year-old, light-boned Juan has not had a great deal of exposure, but his self-assured ascent to the semi-finals of this year’s French Open revealed a young man full of poise, tranquillity and astonishing ability. His fine features and inner strength will appeal to those who worshipped Mats Wilander.
9. Alex Corretja / Carlos Moya
A tie. Two Spaniards for the more mature spectator, although Corretja is only 26 and Moya 24. Corretja is a thoroughly nice, courteous, clean-looking crooner of a player, while Moya has everything a bloke needs to top this list except a strong back – the reason he has not been playing well for 12 months.
10. Pete Sampras
You can’t exclude the best player of all time. Some, such as his actress fiancée, Bridgette Wilson, may find the hirsute Grand Slammer sexy, but behind that whopping great game, Sampras stores a great deal of emotion and every now and then it floods out, breaking the hearts of all those who understand how much he has gone through to dominate tennis for the past decade.
02-24-2004, 01:45 PM
Thanks Helena and Andrea! :kiss:
02-25-2004, 01:28 PM
Juan Carlos only nr 8?! After AA or Gambill??!! Puh-lease!!!!!!!
02-25-2004, 06:17 PM
Thanks Andy! Where is that Gladiator article from?............and um Magnus who? lol ( comeback Magnus I used to adore you :sad: )
02-29-2004, 10:58 PM
sorry for the delay!! (one week what a shame!) to forgive me :
link of a lot of old interviews (in russian) : http://www.tennis-russia.ru/links-interv.html
http://www.gazzetta.it/htdocs-statico/saltri/1.0.172989982.shtml < intervista a safin.
We didn't see you a lot on court last year because you were injuried more than 6 months. How did you occup your off court time?
In fact, i couldn't do a lot of things, because i was going from doctors to doctors to know exactly from what my wrist was suffering. I had to ask for many different opinions from doctors before i knew what was the problem. But the end of season wasn't so far. We were in August, and it wasn't possible to make a resounding come back.
But you've tried to play some tournaments at the end of the season, without winning a match....
That's true,it was hard. Because I was scared of hurting myself. I was unconsciously scared of worsen my injury. So I played at 50% of my possibilities, without beeing physically fit, because I wasn't used to play such matches anymore. So I decided to definitly stop and to take holidays. It was the best thing to do right then.
Staying away that long from the circuit must have been really frustrating...
No, I won't say it was a frustrating experience. Cause without that, I couldn't have the prospect I had during this period. It was a very good experience which made me realize some things which I couldn't do by playing on the tour. By playing many tournaments, you're always traveling, and you don't have the time to stop and to think a lil bit.
Is there a person in particular who morally helped you during this period?
No, not one person in particular. But that's important to see that you've friends who belive in you. People who loves you for what you are. And who don't care if you're a tennis player or not. Sometimes, they can give good advice. And once again it makes you think.
Did this reflection helped you to see your life as a tennisplayer differently?
Yes, probably. I'm sure that a lot of tennisplayers are playing without really knowing what they're doing and why. They're always traveling and don't have the time to think about themselves. Maybe that's a good thing for them, I don't know, but I can tell you that for me, it was good to stop and to take the time for reflection. To decide the way I wanted to organise my life as a player, my schedul, and what i liked. I know myself better now.
So you don't think you're able to live 24h/24 for tennis like Pete Sampras used to do?
That's not possible. Sometimes you have to take some holidays. There's a life outside tennis, even during your career. That's inevitable. You can't live exclusively for tennis. Even Pete, I don't think he was living only for that. But he was calm, discreet and wasn't a partygoer so he gave this image of him, but I think it's not really himself. But he relished his life in his own way. On the other hand there are people who like going out. Why not? We're young, and we want to live a lil bit. It's not going to harm our tennis. Not if we can find a good balance.
Outside tennis what are the things you like to do?
Normal things. Going out with friends like a normal person. You know, I'm missing my friends when I'm on the tour. So I love to go and meet them. Friends from Moscow with whom I'm feeling good. We're going out, going to the cinema. Nothing particular. But that's enough to make me happy.
Are your best friends people you've known in Russia before going on the tour?
Yes, there's of all. I've old friends from school, others old friends, and new friends. It's part of the evolution of a person. We're also evolving apart from tennis.
Do you realized that you've done some mistakes in the past?
But that's the same for everybody! When you reach a certain age, you look behind and think "If I was 18 years old again, I would do this or that differently." It's by doing errors that you become more mature. Now that I'm 24 I can criticize the behaviour I had when I was 18. But to realize that, I had to pass by certain stages. It's part of life.Each person add vances at his own rhythm.
How did you felt when you saw players like Ferrero, Federer, Roddick winning big tournaments in 2003?
They deserve it. They had to work a lot to do that. Look at Roddick who finished the year n°1 : he changed his coach, changed his way of working, and it paid. I was living a different stage of my life. I wasn't crying all the nights 'cause Ferrero won R-G or Federer won at Wimby & the Masters. During the time they were winning tournaments, I was far away of that. Time will come and It will be my turn.
You just lost the final of the Australian Open against Roger Federer. Was the match too much, at the end of a sustain tournament?
Yes, I was too tired to maintain his rythm. For this matches you need to be there from the start to the end. And I was missing something. I needed a lil bit more energy to fight against him. I had my chance in the first set. If I had succeded to make the difference in this set, the scenario would have been different. I lost it, he was became confident, and it become to hatd for me.
Despite that, this tournament will give you a lot of confidence for the rest of the season...
Yes, that's great for me. I never would have thought of reaching the final, after what happened to me last year. I beat some very good players and I'll have some other occasion to beat Federer in the season. You know I don't want to scourge myself because I lost a match against him. He's not a badger. He's the n°1, forgive me to remind you that.
What do you think of the arrival of your little sister Dinara on the female tour?
My sister is doing well. She goes on her way. I hope she'll continue this good direction. She's going to be 18 soon; she's still young. But soon she'll have to take her decisions alone. She'll have to make some mistakes to move on. Because when someone else takes the decisions for you, you don't think, so you don't move on. And she has to move on. From there, she'll go far.
Do you give her some advice sometimes?
No, I don't want. She has to make some mistakes. I do that for her own good. Well, since she takes pleasure playing tennis, I'll be happy for her.
How do you analyse the succes of the russian girls in tennis?
We have a very good school. And there is, I won"t say a rivalry, that's not the right word, but a lot of ambition. They're very ambitious. Kournikova showed them the way, and now, young girls want to make it like her. She was a kind of heroin to them. They're a lot in the tour who are the same generation of Anna, the generation 80-81, who, seeing her succesful, had been inspired. And plus there are more and more coaches who start to know the requirements of the profesional tour better, because know they're traveling.
Why there are more good girls tennisplayers than boys ?
The guys, that's a different story. A sad story I think. Because they have a lack of ambition. I don't know why...Maybe because there' are not enough coaches who understand the male tennis. And to success, You need to have qualified people with you to push you into the right direction. Today, its difficult to find them, and I would say that's why we find more good girls than good boys.
And you, do you have the feeling that you know the game enough to travel alone?
Yes, I can travel alone. I don't need a baby-sitter. I don't need someone to wake up me up at 8am and tell me to hit the ball. I'm travelling on the tour since 5 years. Now, I have someone with me I trust and who is also my best friend, Denis Golovanov,. He knows tennis very well, cause he was 140 in the world, he gives me some advice. I consider him as my coach, and he's going to follow me on the tour this year. You know, its difficult to find someone who wants to travel 42 weeks a year. Many of the good coaches have a family, and they don't want to stay far away of them during all this time.
You just engaged Walt Landers as your physio trainer, and you worked very hard with him in Monaco in December. Does it mean that you're going to tackle your tennis differently, and look after the physical mainly?
No, not really. But I have problems with my wrist and both ankles. My organism is not the same as he used to be. I'm becoming more and more fragile. As you already know, I already had probs at my elbow, back problems, and I have to be careful, and take care of my organism . I'm very tall, and it comprises some disadvantages which I compensate being attentive of my physical. So I need a lot of massages, a lot of cares, and look after at my weak points. Walt is very good for that, plus he coachesme on the physical plan. Its useful that only one person helps me on all that. Like that I don't need to bring a troup on the tour to take care of myself.
Do you have the feeling that you can reach a superior level than the one you've already reached?
Yes, in fact I don't know. All I can do, is to try. Of course I want that. And I'll do everything possible. If I willfail or if my organism can't, no matters. But I can tell you that I will do my best to success with my potential.
Your goal of the season is to be n°1 again?
Yes, of course, everybody wants to be n°1. But it doesnt mean that I'll be n°1 cause it's my aim. The road is long , and the year comprise 365 days. You have to stay constant in the performance, stay concentrated, and do what you have to do, to train and to rest when it's needed. To do the job well, I mean! And when the opportunity comes, you have to take it. Sometimes one or two points make the difference in a match. It can change a season or a career !
Do you think its harder for you to reach the top today than it was some years ago?
As far as I'm not on the top, I can't affirm anything. I would say it would be totally different now. At that time, I had nothing to loose. I was very young, fiery, I was discovering the tour, and nothing worried me. Everybody did congratulated myself always, and I thought it was normal. Today its a different story. I'm not going to say I'm old, but I'm 24. And in a certain way, I have to start again, from zero. There are guys like Schuettler or Coria for example who were staying around the 30rd rank, and who today are settled on the top 10. They're playing great tennis, they're not afraid of anything. They're not afraid of me. I'm the guy who was away during one year and now is far in the ranking. I have to work really hard, success a lot of very good matches to impose the respect again.
corrected by andrea (thx u so much girl! :worship: )
03-01-2004, 12:12 AM
oh wow, great interview, thanks Helena and Andy, :kiss:
"But I can tell you that I will do my best to success with my potential" finally! we've only been waiting what, 500 years for him to realise that, bravo Marat! seriously.
03-01-2004, 12:45 PM
very interesting interview. especially the thing with his organism :( which is very sad!
and he is philosophyng a lot again ;)
Nelia, GREAT WORK GIRL! :worship:
03-01-2004, 01:55 PM
Great interview! :) Thanks Helena and Andrea! :kiss:
03-04-2004, 03:44 PM
article in Russian about Marat beeing seriously in love with Dasha and wanting to marry her, him and Dasha at Kafelnikov`s birthday party etc
you can translate with Babelfish;)
03-04-2004, 06:37 PM
Thanks Andy! but Bablefish blows, is there someone who can tanslate it for us? Vass?, Lady? and Im assuming thats her on the left....she's puurty :)
she looks like that girl from Home and Away...
03-04-2004, 07:03 PM
She's a natural beauty :)
Marat looks so funny on that pic with her :haha:
03-04-2004, 08:59 PM
Its gonna take me a while to catch up on all the news and articles but thanks in advance to everyone who posted. :kiss:
03-04-2004, 09:00 PM
take your time jessi, i assume there's no news till iw starts ;)
03-04-2004, 09:01 PM
I like Dasha very much. Shes definitely very pretty. She has a sort of Julia Roberts vibe about her.. very natural, real and down to earth.
03-04-2004, 09:06 PM
she is :) And they say she is very nice and modest.
she has also a very sweet smile.
03-04-2004, 09:10 PM
she reminds me of claudia schieffer, who i find like the most beautiful woman in the world
03-04-2004, 09:21 PM
and she is German :cool:
03-04-2004, 09:24 PM
that automatically makes her cool since all german people rock! ;)
03-04-2004, 09:26 PM
couldnt have said it better :angel:
03-04-2004, 09:28 PM
I prefer Heidi Klum to Claudia Shieffer. So many German beauties ;)
03-04-2004, 09:28 PM
I know I rock too!
03-04-2004, 09:28 PM
Heidi Klum is great too :cool:
03-04-2004, 09:29 PM
I like Boris B for a guy his age :o
03-04-2004, 09:29 PM
I know I rock too!
and all people from the Netherlands ;)
03-04-2004, 09:30 PM
Ilhame, you definitely rock! You can give those girls a run for their money ;)
03-04-2004, 09:30 PM
I like Boris B for a guy his age :o
i think Michael Stich looks better ;)
03-04-2004, 09:31 PM
she reminds me of claudia schieffer, who i find like the most beautiful woman in the world
pffffft that'll change once you meet me ;)
03-04-2004, 09:31 PM
All Marat fans rock! :cool:
03-04-2004, 09:32 PM
I also like Michael Stich.
What do you think of Heidi's fiancee? Mr. grandpa Flavio Briattore?
03-04-2004, 09:33 PM
I like to see pics of all of you girls! ;)
03-04-2004, 09:34 PM
What do you think of Heidi's fiancee? Mr. grandpa Flavio Briattore?
03-04-2004, 09:37 PM
He's ugly and OLD
03-04-2004, 09:41 PM
I dont like him, he is so weird :o
But as long Heidi is happy.
03-04-2004, 09:48 PM
he sounds creepy
03-04-2004, 09:49 PM
03-04-2004, 09:49 PM
I like to see pics of all of you girls! ;)
me too! How bout it Andrea, Kiara, and Cat? ;)
03-04-2004, 09:55 PM
later! I deleted all my photos long time ago cos kept buggering my computer up and I have yet to scan my holiday photos so when I do get off my ass and scan them ill send them all to you ;) , and Ive seen Cat, and Nicki and Ilhame is currently my wallpaper kekeke ( dont freak out Ilhame, it's the pic you took with Tommy :drool:;)I dont have a crush on you or anything, even though you're very pretty, I prefer men ;) )
03-04-2004, 09:56 PM
:wavey: welcome back Jessi!!!
03-04-2004, 10:02 PM
later! I deleted all my photos long time ago cos kept buggering my computer up and I have yet to scan my holiday photos so when I do get off my ass and scan them ill send them all to you ;) , and Ive seen Cat, and Nicki and Ilhame is currently my wallpaper kekeke ( dont freak out Ilhame, it's the pic you took with Tommy :drool:;)I dont have a crush on you or anything, even though you're very pretty, I prefer men ;) )
Can't wait Kiara! Let me know when your pics are ready and i'll give you my real email, not the hotmail one ;)
I've seen Nicki's pic but i've yet to see Cats or Andreas :sad:
03-04-2004, 10:04 PM
since when are you the thread police :p But you're right... this convo belongs in the Safinettes/Safinous thread.
03-04-2004, 10:04 PM
okidoki, speaking of Cat, where is she? I havent spoken to her in aaaaaaaaaaaaggggges :( :sad:,
03-04-2004, 10:04 PM
hey thanks Nicki :wavey: