Tennis Prose



How Safin Escaped his Dreadful Slump and Became Great in 2000


In the spring of 2000 Marat Safin was so frustrated he thought about quitting tennis – at the ripe old age of 20. But something happened, something clicked and Safin turned it all around. By the end of the summer he was the six seed at US Open and after the fortnight he was the US Open champion, fresh off a straight set destruction of Pete Sampras.

Safin explained after his first major title victory how it all changed for him…

Q. How can you relate the feelings now to those you were feeling, say, going into Monte-Carlo in April?

MARAT SAFIN: I was much better in Monte-Carlo. No, it’s difficult to explain because I just won a tournament, a huge tournament (US Open 2000 vs Sampras), but it’s a lot of attention, I can see it, everybody wants to ask me. It’s one step forward.

Q. Could you have imagined then? You must have had some disparaging moments then.

MARAT SAFIN: I think about quitting the tennis in Indian Wells. Now I won the US Open. Just I played — I start to play better, and before I was thinking to stay in the Top 20. With luck, I can finish in Top 20. Maybe I can go to Top 15. Now I’m thinking about to be for No. 1 in the world. I have a big chance, so it’s a big difference, I think.

Q. Was there one thing that turned that around for you, a match with somebody, a conversation you might have had with somebody that turned things around for your year?

MARAT SAFIN: I think Andrei (Chesnokov), he just explain to me, and I understood this. My ex-coach (Rafael Mensua), he was explaining the same thing. I’m just start to understand it now. But he was explaining the same thing like he did. I don’t know how I understood better Andrei than my ex-coach.

Q. What was it?

MARAT SAFIN: What was it? “Just fight. When you’re playing bad, you have to fight.” I didn’t fight. You know how many matches I lose 6-Love in the second set? I mean, it was a disaster. I was just making Christmas presents. I cannot do this. So I start to fight. I was playing — I didn’t play my best tennis in Barcelona, but I start to fight. I had a tough match against Zabaleta, a tough match against Portas. Then my confidence came. I start to play already with a big serve, inside the court, putting pressure all the time. I just found it in two days, three days. I don’t want to lose it now.

Q. Do you believe in destiny? Did you see something written before coming here? You were so convinced in the third round saying, “I came here not to win the quarters or semifinals, I came here to reach the final and win.”

MARAT SAFIN: I was right. I was right. No, because if you come here, if you have in your head make quarters, last 16, semifinal, what is this? It’s nothing. Actually, it’s nothing. You have to come to the tournament, to Grand Slam tournament mentally to win, to win it. Why not? Why I can’t win it? I have everything to be in the final, even beat Pete.

Q. But you never said that in the previous tournaments.

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, I start to convince myself, otherwise I have to think in positive way, not negative. I came here and said, “I come here to win. If it works, it works.” Sometimes it doesn’t work, but at least you have in your head that you want to win here. So already you have inside your body to win, to win each round, just show to the people that I want to win this tournament. It doesn’t matter with who I’m playing, it doesn’t matter in which court. I want to be in the final. I want to win. That’s it.

Safin got on the board in the spring by winning Barcelona and Mallorca, then won Toronto in the summer, before his epic US Open win. The morale of the story is “to fight. When you’re playing bad you have to fight.”

Excerpt from Facing Safin book due in summer 2018.

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  • catherine · May 18, 2018 at 8:14 am

    Rome news: Svitolina gets her 6th consecutive win over Kerber – Angie df nervily twice in 1st set and lost the chance to go 5-3 but Elina looked pretty cool and calm throughout.

    Never mind – it’s Angie’s best run in Rome since 2012 so she can go and have some ice cream and coffee and forget about that nasty clay stuff until RG.

    Online the main subject of comment is Sharapova 🙂

    Fog took the 1st set from Nadal and then Rafa remembered who he was.

  • catherine · May 18, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Actually Angie served 8 dfs. Mentally shredded but why ? Fisette better get working on the serve and a brain coach better getting working on the nerves.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 18, 2018 at 8:54 am

    Fognini showed his best tennis in set one but then put it back in his pocket, to save it for Paris 🙂 Svitolina is one of many contenders to win RG, there are many – Pliskova Halep Kerber Wozniacki Ostapenko Stephens Keys Serena Sharapova. The womens draw is intriguing. Svitolina looks very sharp and smooth and agile with easy power. Gonna be hard to bet against Svitolina at RG.

  • catherine · May 18, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Yes, Elina looked very good, unperturbed, v Kerber, who, btw, has no hope of winning RG but she probably doesn’t care.
    Sharapova falling behind Ostapenko as I type.

    Not Stephens, not Keys, not Serena, not Woz at RG.
    Svit is the betting favourite for Rome but with a decent draw I’d favour Simona for RG. Betting now legal in US ? I never knew it wasn’t.

    Angie’s tactics were wrong v Elina. When you think you’ve no hope you just hit out. Fisette has told her this before but it’s not in her nature. She goes back to her introverted worrying ways. Svitolina, you could see, when she’s playing well, lets that stuff slide off her.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 18, 2018 at 10:09 am

    Svitolina is overdue. It could be her time. Can’t forget Kasatkina either. Maybe Gavrilova. Stosur. And of course Su Wei Hiseh. Muguruza could catch fire. Serena will be a curiosity. Svitolina is the favorite. We’ll see if Pliskova gets bogged down and distracted by having to answer so many questions about her raging assault on the umpire chair. Another possibility is the total shocker out of nowhere winner like Schiavone Pennetta.

  • Hartt · May 18, 2018 at 10:13 am

    I guess it’s never too late to make inroads in tennis. Canuck Filip Peliwo, who did very well as a junior, winning 2 junior Slams, including Wimbledon and making the finals of the other two, never got going on the main tour. But suddenly he made a couple big jumps up the rankings, the most recent takes him to a career high of No. 160. He just beat McDonald in the Busan Challenger to make the SF. Filip is 24 years old, and I always wondered how he even financed his tennis, but things are starting to look up for him.

    Felix Auger-Aliassime is also moving up, although in his case he is still below his career best of 153. Felix is currently ranked No. 174, 1 spot behind Gulbis. His next match is the QF at the Lisbon Challenger.

  • catherine · May 18, 2018 at 10:21 am

    You’re joking Scoop – Schiavone will need a wc and Flavia’s retired. Muguruza will only catch fire if someone puts a match to her new adidas outfit 🙂

  • Hartt · May 18, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Scoop, there is a very recent example of a shocker out of nowhere – Ostapenko winning RG last year. Nothing like making your first title a Slam!

    Right now she is up a set over Sharapova in Rome.

  • catherine · May 18, 2018 at 11:14 am

    They are in the 3rd and Maria will win.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 18, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Hartt, yuo say it’s never too late to make inroads in tennis – are you not familiar with the odyssey of Victor Estrella Burgos? Peliwo started scoring good Challenger wins last year. Good to see he’s still rolling forward. Thought Felix would be further advanced that he is now, the big upset wins haven’t come just yet.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 18, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Catherine, I would not count out Muguruza, just yet. Though your crack was a good one 🙂

  • catherine · May 18, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks Scoop – and Maria did win. Woz lost. Intriguing semi line-up.

  • Hartt · May 18, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Scoop, yes the Victor Estrella Burgos story is a dramatic one – nothing like starting to win Tour level titles at about age 33! Now, if only all the tourneys could be in Ecuador!

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 18, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    Hartt, Estrella qualfiied finally for his first major main draw at 33 and he reached top 100 for the first time and won his first ATP title at 33. ATP perseverance records that surely will never be touched. Peliwo could actually be the better player.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 18, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    Sharapova vs Serena at French Open first week – just imagine that.

  • catherine · May 18, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    Even more important – Serena will be attending the Royal Wedding. Apparently she is a ‘close friend’ of the bride. I never knew that 🙂

  • Hartt · May 18, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Halep just defeated Garcia 6-2, 6-3. Simona played well, for the most part, the match did not seem even as close as this score suggests.

  • catherine · May 18, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Simona bt Garcia easily. Can’t see her losing this now – exhausted Sharapova tomorrow and then the final.
    She’s had an easy draw but that’s not her fault. She’s looking sharp and confident.

  • catherine · May 18, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    Hartt – another example of Great Minds thinking alike.
    Exactly the same moment 🙂

  • Duke Carnoustie · May 18, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Svitolina may just be a choker. I’ll take Simona at RG over her.

    I’ll bet Simona draws Serena somehow.

  • Duke Carnoustie · May 18, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    Now we find out what Nole is all about. How will he handle getting flattened by Nadal. It’s a great question.

    I just hope Rafa takes it easy on his old pal

  • Hartt · May 18, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Catherine, that is so strange that we posted similar messages at exactly the same time!

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 18, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    Halep has a bad record vs Maria. not sure if she ever beat her.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 18, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Rafa take it easy on Djokovic or anyone? Never. He plays to kill. Zero mercy on any point. What makes him the GOAT Jr. or GOAT in waiting.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 18, 2018 at 9:05 pm

    Hartt and Catherine, amazing things happen at this site 🙂

  • catherine · May 19, 2018 at 2:20 am

    Hartt – of course in London it was around 10 pm. But still, some coincidence.

    Caroline can play better than that – I think she was intimidated by the sight of the black clad Terminator across the net 🙂

    Scoop – Maria will be a wreck after yesterday and Simona will brush her aside.

  • catherine · May 19, 2018 at 2:29 am

    Apparently Djokovic went whining to the referee when his match was held up by the length of the Sharapova/Ostapenko epic. Oh poor thing. What about women’s matches that start in the middle of the night because some men’s match has stretched out interminably ?

    Stuff happens Novak 🙂

  • catherine · May 19, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Svitolina disposes of Kontaveit quite efficiently and tomorrow it will be Svitolina v Halep all over again. Simona to win.

    (Serena wore a pinkish/tan number today as far as I could see. I’ve heard she and Alex are purchasing a London home near Kensington Palace.)

  • Hartt · May 19, 2018 at 8:47 am

    I thought Serena looked great.

    I was surprised that Elina had so little trouble winning that match.

  • Hartt · May 19, 2018 at 8:48 am

    Catherine, maybe saying we posted at the same moment is more accurate. 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 19, 2018 at 9:04 am

    Djokovic whining to an offical about a womens match going to long? If ture That’s a low for him.

  • catherine · May 19, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Hartt – yes, it looked easy for Elina but I thought Kontaveit played well – she could develop into quite a player. There was no great contrast between them though, so it was a bit samey.

    Going back a match, I think maybe one of the reasons Angie has such trouble with Elina is that their games are rather similar, it must be like playing herself in a mirror, and of course Svitolina is a little bit younger.

    Re posting – on my computer the time comes up as in the US or Canada in this case, so I often seem to commenting at 2.30 am when of course I am asleep 🙂

    Serena was one of the better dressed women there, I agree.

  • catherine · May 19, 2018 at 9:44 am

    Scoop – it was in Simon Brigg’s report in the Telegraph. Djoko spent half-an-hour complaining according to Simon, who must have been ear-wigging outside the door.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 19, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Catherine, if that is true and I trust Briggs, Djokovic has become a pampered crybaby. I would think he was half joking and venting his frustration about being held up by a couple of ladies. I guess it illustrates that the character some of these players show to the media and public and TV cameras is a lot different than the true characters they show behind closed doors. Allegations that Djokovic is a “phony” may have some merit.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 19, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Serena looks stunning and seems to look better as she ages. Hope she cuts that long hair before Roland Garros though, or removes the lengthy extension which could get entangled in her Wilson as I saw happen to Chakvetadze many years ago.

  • Hartt · May 19, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Woz also got her hair caught in her racquet once. She managed to free it, but it was kind of funny at the time.

    I think Serena is a beautiful woman – she has strong features and incredible bone structure, which is shown off when her hair is pulled back like it was today. Her dress was very flattering and she was even able to carry off the silly fascinator.

  • Hartt · May 19, 2018 at 11:38 am

    Rafa vs Novak was an entertaining match, with Rafa winning in SS. But, overall, Novak played very well. There were some terrific rallies, with both players making one amazing shot after the other. It looks like the “old” Novak is pretty well back.

  • catherine · May 19, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    Scratch the surface, Scoop, and you’ll find a lot of male players really only tolerate women at mixed events – they’re ok, but only insofar as they don’t interfere with the main business, ie men’s matches. There are exceptions, but on the whole that’s true.

    I would guess that Djokovic has pretty basic ideas about women, although he might say otherwise in order not to call down WTA wrath.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 19, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    The men players detest the equal prize money reality injustice, I have heard the off the record comments by current and former pros. But if they spout it on the record the backlash wrath of the PC army would vicious. Let’s see if Djokovic gets questioned about this and if he holds his ground.

  • catherine · May 19, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Oh we’re not going there again – as I’ve said before, what’s it matter to men if women get equal prizemoney ? No one’s taking anything away from them. What on earth’s unjust about it ? In the world today people get paid enormous sums for doing absolutely nothing. And get paid very little for doing a lot. There’s no rule. You get what you can.

    Who cares how much money tennis players get ? I don’t.

    And money has nothing to do with what I was referring to re Djokovic’s feelings. He probably thinks women shouldn’t be playing tennis at all.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 19, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    Okay let’s not go there 🙂 Djokovic kind of had a just reason to gripe. It’s very frustrating to have to wait and wait and wait to play the biggest match of your year while a three hour WTA match with extended bathroom delays ambles on. But griping for 30 min about it as a poor use of energy and focus.

  • Joe Blow · May 20, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Catherine wrote:

    Oh we’re not going there again – as I’ve said before, what’s it matter to men if women get equal prizemoney ? No one’s taking anything away from them. What on earth’s unjust about it ? In the world today people get paid enormous sums for doing absolutely nothing. And get paid very little for doing a lot. There’s no rule. You get what you can.

    Who cares how much money tennis players get ? I don’t.

    Let’s discuss it for a moment.

    1) The women need the men more at these mixed events, just by crowds
    2) Why isn’t there an outcry by women’s golfers for equal prize money. Senior, over 50 men’s golfers make more than LPGA golfers. They play shorter courses, and sometimes 54 holes instead of 72, but women tennis players play 2 out of 3 in Majors, while men play 3 of 5?
    Just asking?



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