Re: Peter Lundgren glorification thread
Safin-Lundgren Partnership Pays Dividends Early in 2005
Marat Safin was having less than a good time at last year's US Open.
Up to that point in 2004 the temperamental Russian was 0-2 in tournament finals, losing to Roger Federer in the Australian Open championship match and to Juan Ignacio Chela on clay at Estoril.
A first-round loss to Thomas Enqvist at the US Open was the last straw.
After the match Safin and coach Peter Lundgren argued for a long period in the locker room. The Russian insisted his season was over, his game was in shambles, and it would be best to blow off the remaining tournaments on the year and take a sabbatical. Lundgren tried to keep things positive, insisting that the Asian events and the European indoor swing before the end of the year could easily turn his game around.
In the end Lundgren's persistence paid off, and Safin kept his post-Open obligation in Beijing where he won his first title of three in 2004, including Masters Series wins at Madrid and Paris.
Thus has been the influence of Lundgren on the wildly erratic Safin, who was seemingly destined for Grand Slam greatness when he brutalized Pete Sampras in the 2000 US Open final. With his win at the 2005 Australian Open, the Russian's pairing with the Swede has picked up where the four-year span of failed expectations finally left off.
Russian Tennis Federation President Shamil Tarpishchev, who said no foreigner could successfully coach Safin because in his opinion it was 'a Russian thing,' told Reuters he is now forced to eat his words.
"Without question, Peter Lundgren has been able to get the best out of Safin, which is by no means an easy thing to do," Tarpishchev said. "You have to give full credit to Lundgren for the way he has handled Marat's temper and channeled it in a positive way...He proved me wrong, but I'm not bitter. I'm happy, very happy for both Marat and Peter. It seems like they have found a common bond and you can see how much Marat respects his coach."
Safin says Lundgren, who also coached the surly Chilean former No. 1 Marcelo Rios, helped him conquer his self-doubt.
"He made me believe that I can be a good player and I don't have so much doubt about myself," Safin said after beating Lleyton Hewitt in the Aussie Open final. "He understood who I am and I understood what he wants from me. It took us four or five months before the results came. But then once they came, they have continued to come."
The result is almost laughable in retrospect, with tennis punters and the media completely writing off Safin prior to the Open. Safin skipped the two weeks of ATP events leading into Melbourne, making his only pseudo-competitive appearance representing Team Russia at the Hopman Cup exhibition.
In his first match against Germany, Safin dropped a three-setter to Tommy Haas, then teamed with countrywoman Anastasia Myskina to lose 7-6 in the third in the doubles. In his next match against Argentina, Safin lost the first set in a tiebreak to Guillermo Coria before mentally pulling the plug, losing the second set 6-1 then getting bageled in the doubles. It seemed the same old Marat in 2005.
In his last match versus David Sanguinetti of Italy, the big Russian split the first two sets in tiebreaks before bailing on the final set 6-0, then went on to lose the doubles for a perfect 0-6 record at the event.
"I am playing well. I am not complaining, I'm playing well, I am hitting the ball well. Peter is satisfied with the way I am playing," said Safin during the Hopman cup struggle. "I'm very confident of playing well (in Melbourne). Win a couple of matches and then everything is going under control."
Now that the numerous Roger Federer win streaks are no more, Safin himself has a new streak, 7-0 in 2005, and a rounding confidence to challenge the formerly un-challengable Swiss.
How long Lundgren can successfully manipulate the Rubik's Cube that is Marat Safin's brain, and if this is just another blip on the radar ala the 2000 US Open, will be interesting to observe during the next 10 months.
Bea to Alex Corretja: "Attendez y'a Gab...!"