Tennis Prose



Safin Offers Advice For Kyrgios

Facing Marat Safin

Marat Safin, the two time major champion and tennis Hall of Famer, has offered some wise advice to Nick Kyrgios.

“I’m not judging and I know it’s sensitive, and you hear three million times that if he gets serious he can be a top-ten player,” Safin said of the 24-year-old Aussie dynamo.

“But I think he tries to hide his doubts by joking around. He needs to face the pressure and be a warrior, not an entertainer. I think he’s a great warrior, he just needs to face the tough moments and once he does he could have a great career.”

It takes a warrior to know a warrior and Safin surely senses greatness in his kindred spirit. The Russian heavyweight won fifteen career ATP titles from 1999 to 2005, with the final conquest coming in Melbourne against Lleyton Hewitt.

“I know what I’m talking about … it’s difficult to deal with the pressure, a lot of people around you but this is life and the idea is to make less mistakes as you grow up.”

“He has great potential, for some reason he isn’t consistent and that’s why the ranking bounces left and right,” he said. “Maybe that six months (ban if Kyrgios misbehaves in 2020 after creating a series of controversies in 2019) is enough time to rethink what he wants to do. Time goes fast and he’s not eighteen anymore. The years fly, if you don’t wake up now he’ll look back, be thirty-five years old and that’s it.”

Safin, like Kyrgios, was also well known for his inconsistent results and an on/off court wildside. Safin retired from tennis at age 29.

Safin will captain the Russian team in the 2020 inaugural ATP Cup in January.



  • Hartt · December 24, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    But facing the pressure is exactly what Kyrgios does not do. He is 24 years old, and has been a pro player for several years. His current ranking is No.30, and he had his career high ranking, No.13, 3 years ago. So he is going down, not up, during what should be his prime.

    Sometimes players do manage to make big changes after they have been on the tour for a few years, but I think it is doubtful Kyrgios will do that. I think the most likely scenario is that Nick will suddenly discover in a few years that it is too late. It would be surprising if he is still playing tennis at age 35. Along with his attitude, his frequent injuries don’t bode well for a long career.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 24, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    Hartt, Aside from his first time wins vs Fed, Rafa and Djokovic – a historic achievement – he has failed in just about all of his other big pressure matches. The latest being the showdown with Rafa at Wimbledon where he brought Bouchard to his box for some psyche warfare / former love triangle reasons. Nick has never got the job done in a big Grand Slam or Davis Cup moment. Hopefully he can fix that flaw and maybe hiring Safin as his coach would help that. Safin said he’s interested in coaching anyone earlier this year.

  • Hartt · December 24, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    Like so many others, Safin is saying “if Kyrgios did this,” he could be a great player. But as Rafa so eloquently said, “If, if if . . . doesn’t exist.”

    Outside of winning some 500 and 250 tourneys Nick hasn’t accomplished much in recent years. I don’t belittle those achievements – winning any ATP tourney isn’t easy. But for him to be in contention for greatness he has to manage something more than a QF at Wimby 5 years ago and at the AO nearly 5 years ago.

    Safin, for all his inconsistency, had won a Slam and at least 1 Masters (Toronto) and had held the No.1 ranking by the time he was Nick’s age.

    I watched Nick’s match against FAA very carefully (because, of course, it was Félix) and Nick followed a frequent pattern. As soon as FAA started to get the upper hand in the match, Nick started going on and on at the ump and was generally disruptive. Félix said later that it was very hard for him to maintain his focus through all that. When it was pretty clear that FAA would win the match, Nick basically tanked the last couple games. After it was over he threw his racquet off the court, onto a pathway where people were walking.

    So as soon as Kyrgios faced real pressure in that match he started acting up, instead of buckling down and trying to find a way to turn things around. If this were an isolated incident it would be one thing, but, as we know, this is how Nick frequently deals with pressure. And I think it is highly unlikely that he will change.

  • Andrew Miller · December 25, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    What Hartt said 🙂 I’ve had to drop my illusions regarding players. What you see is what you get. Players can improve in the mental focus dept. and we have seen this, even for the two weeks of a slam. Odds are long. Expect him to remain muddled until he proves otherwise. He will be a “legend” in team contests and resentful in the biggest events on the world stage, he will mystify all of us and amaze with his skill then turn in lackluster efforts. And he will blame everyone else while failing to commit to anything resembling whatever it takes to pull off a big time result.

    That’s Kyrgios. I’ll see something I’ve rarely seen in a player, then its opposite, the will to lose, which he will demonstrate when the pressure is dialed up and he has no teammates. That’s Kyrgios. Maybe he’ll be inspired by Medvedev. More likely he’ll just say how he’s unafraid of the big three while losing to others in the top fifty. Sad.

  • Andrew Miller · December 25, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Usually: if a player can only point to moments they played amazing while not addressing their weaknesses they aren’t going to break through to the huge results. Medvedev I think showed he has this thirst for competition and showed himself he has a few more levels in him than he thought. He mucked it up in his final tournaments of the year, but indoors doesn’t count anyways unless you get hurt (see: the WTA player everyone fears).

  • Andrew Miller · December 25, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    As to anyone playing Kyrgios: players catch on quick unless they’ve never faced him, and have the advantage of knowing he’ll collapse when the going gets tough (see Rublev, A., US Open Round Three 2019, who had the desire to best Kyrgios given his loss to him previously, and for whom Kyrgios didn’t prepare given he looked ahead in the draw past the one guy he had to get by). Tried and true, Rublev knew he gets to a place with Kyrgios meeting his match Kyrgios would lose interest or collapse under the pressure. And thus Rublev moved on while Kyrgios said he did nothing special…other than execute a perfect plan against a player that couldn’t handle the possibility of another player playing him close, stealing his lunch, whatnot.

    Kyrgios could learn something from Rublev and vice versa. Rublev game hasn’t evolved much, he sticks with bread/butter. As always if only a player had x shot…and “if only” is fantasy.

  • Andrew Miller · December 25, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    I say all with Max respect for Kyrgios, Rublev. Especially enjoy Rublev because he sticks with the match, but Rublev could benefit from putting on more of a show, getting some fans, and Kyrgios from Rublev single minded pursuit of drilling balls past opponents.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 25, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    Rublev is a terrible match up for Kyrgios, like a kryptonite match up. Rublev will not roll over for Nick and he will hang in there and make Nick earn EVERYTHING. And he has enough to hurt him too. Guys like Rublev, Coric are kryptonite for Nick. He has to learn how to handle those guys. He seems to do better vs the big three.

  • Andrew Miller · December 25, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    Safin knows. In other news from, Robson to get hip surgery (wow! So many surgeries. That’s too much for a player, the Brian Baker of the wta if ever). Monica Puig elbow surgery (that dashes a lot of her plans for 2020, including defending her gold medal).

    Again, powers that be should look into injuries. You’ll never protect Nadal from injury, but there has to be a way to prevent over playing – I’m convinced the China Tour money grab raises the risks on what used to be a ho hum quiet part of the season.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 25, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    Haas, C Harrison, Baker all with around ten surgeries each, thirty total for three players. Tennis surgery hall of famers. If anyone can coach Kyrgios out of his dazed and confused haze it would be Safin.

  • Andrew Miller · December 26, 2019 at 1:33 am

    Robson, Jaime “Rios” Hampton may join them. I think Catherine had noted Robson injuries, which are huge. She may be inspired by Murray, but these injuries aren’t straightforward for making comebacks. I’m glad she’s done some announcing, something to do while aiming to play again. Tough tough injury.

    Yes, those players belong in HOF for injuries. C. Harrison, I thought was the better Harry. Even in the documentary on them he was hurt, even then in his early teens.

    Hope Baker considers coaching. He was flat out good.

  • Andrew Miller · December 26, 2019 at 1:34 am

    Haas, good choice for a coach.

  • catherine · December 26, 2019 at 2:58 am

    Can’t see Robson playing again, not seriously. She’s 25 now and hasn’t had much success for a long time. She tried out commentating for the Fed Cup in Bath around a year ago but didn’t impress, from what I heard. But she may improve in this if she gets some training.

    No stars on the horizon among British women. Pretty mediocre bunch. Tennis just doesn’t seem a sport girls want to play – gifted athletes go into track and field.

    Is C Harrison the one who’s playing in Hawaii ? Starts today. Kerber opens against Danielle Collins. Hope Angie doesn’t get flashbacks. Kei N is also playing. Appearance money is huge I bet.

    ( Re Brits – I’m exempting Konta who picked up the game in Australia – and even Virginia Wade, last Wimbledon winner, spent her early years in South Africa)

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 26, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Robson is a world class phenomenal talent, like a Kvitova, long armed, long legged but her flaw is she’s slow as molasses, very slow footed. I saw her train at IMG in offseason 2 years ago with Heather Watson. If she can somehow manage to get quicker and faster she will be a top 50 player or better. If not, forget about it. As the late great Pamcho Segura said, “If you can’t move, you can’t play tennis.”

  • Andrew Miller · December 26, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Scoop, MAJOR injury for Robson. I don’t like making sweeping predictions, and as we have seen players like Murray CAN come back from major surgery, but not every player does or can (for a kaleidoscope of reasons). She seems like she is interested in staying in or around the game, and for what it’s worth she is good with the mic.

    If she isn’t able to come back it’s good she may have other options that keep her somewhere in the sport.

    I’ll agree with everyone on Robson, I don’t have much to add about her game. I thought her groundstrokes were good and overall a good, clean power game.

  • Andrew Miller · December 26, 2019 at 11:38 am

    Maybe UK is the MOST disappointing tennis country. Dan made a case for France, but last time I checked they had two female slam champs in the last 15 years (not bad at all). I would have thrown in Australia but they too have two female slam champs of super recent or somewhat recent timeframes.

    Then again, if Serena Williams weren’t a U.S. citizen the U.S. presence in tennis over the last 15 years would be total non-factor – that’s even including the fantastic effort of Sloane Stephens when she’s been up for it. That’s kind of why I look at all of this and say: this hasn’t been a very good era for U.S. tennis and still isn’t. It’s better than February 2014, the absolute nadir of men’s tennis in the U.S. That isn’t saying much.

    Take your pick as to most disappointing country for tennis. My vote is the UK – it’s Murray and no one. Then right up with the UK has to be the US. Then probably China just because, even if they have never been seen as a tennis power, they didn’t follow up Li Na despite pouring a gazillion dollars into tennis.

  • catherine · December 26, 2019 at 11:39 am

    I don’t think Laura’s good with the mic, for what it’s worth. Neither did (do) I think she’s a particularly interesting player. Good example of too much too soon. She had a revolving door of coaches and more than one commented on her lack of work ethic.

    That’s not unusual in British women players – Heather Watson probably excepted.

    She’s not going to move better – just hasn’t the build.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 26, 2019 at 11:41 am

    Andrew, Robson has the game, she’s Kvitova with a lot less emotional intensity and food speed. She’s flat out slow. She had some big results at around 15-16-17 range but then it went all downhill. Maybe injuries. Maybe weight gain slowed her even more. I saw her play on TV at her peak and I saw her in practice, she was a phenom, she had the game and the weapons. She should go all out on working on her movement, speed, athleticism and weight loss.

  • Andrew Miller · December 26, 2019 at 11:45 am

    Some players don’t have the build but they have the skills, or they work at it.

    Just think a surgery like this – this isn’t like working on a non-dominant hand or something. It’s a hip. That’s nearly game over – for Murray, it could have been and still may be (though Murray could retire any day now if he wants to – seems to be postponing as long as possible so he can get some more notches in the belt).

    Is Robson a bad announcer? Maybe I’m too generous. Some announcers (Gimelstob comes to mind) added zero point zero zero zero to a tennis match with the microphone at their disposal, plus throwing in some cringe coverage (for tennis, which tends to be more genteel. Sometimes I thought he had potential, then I thought actually HE DOESNT).

    Took me a while to appreciate Bud Collins. Collins was actually very good and special and I’m sorry for tennis he’s no longer among us.

  • Andrew Miller · December 26, 2019 at 11:50 am

    A big game can make up for a lot especially on fast surface, but I understand what you’re saying.

    Sometimes footwork makes up for it. Speed was an issue for the top ranked girl in the country, who I was in a clinic with. We knew (meaning the coach, me a player, other people there) that she had a ceiling – but some of it was because she had one game only, no plan B no plan A2 nothing. Just one speed, hit the bleep out of the ball. A ball any further beyond her forget it – she had two hands off each side also and anytime she switched to one hand she was in jeopardy.

    Fine college career. Bad pro career. But didn’t have anything approximating the Robson career despite an embarrassment of wild cards into the biggest tournaments. And the UK didn’t put many chips on her either nor should they have.

  • Andrew Miller · December 26, 2019 at 11:52 am

    (they didn’t put many chips on the junior I knew, who played the LTA and USTA off each other…as a wealthy girl!)

  • catherine · December 26, 2019 at 11:53 am

    Scoop – I can’t understand this Laura Robson thing – I saw her play a fair bit when she was younger and I can’t see any resemblance to Kvitova. She had good junior results, didn’t train well, got injured and never got back. She never won anything worth talking about. And if she could work on the aspects you’ve mentioned she wouldn’t be in the place she is now.

  • Andrew Miller · December 26, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Scoop, how do you see Davenport then? Footwork saved her? Or, more relevant to Robson, a player like Townsend (similar junior trajectory, with Townsend peaking earlier as well as later in the results dept), who isn’t fleet but makes up for it with her knowledge, broad array of shots?

  • Andrew Miller · December 26, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    Yes, Catherine, I am just now seeing that “what you see is what you get” when it comes to most players. We can’t expect X player to develop everything that makes them better because generally speaking they won’t or they’ll resist or they are just more comfortable doing their thing.

    Oddly enough coaches like Michael Joyce don’t seem to focus much on developing a player game, just turning them into the tennis equivalent of a human tennis backboard. Suggests to me that he has seen so much as to say: “changing a player isn’t worth it, just get them amazing at what they actually do”.

    I don’t think it’s a recipe for slam champs but it is a recipe for repeat business, and probably a recipe for moving back up the rankings.

  • Andrew Miller · December 26, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    (Maybe I’m wrong on Joyce, I’ll have to listen again to his epic podcasts).

  • catherine · December 26, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    Andrew – if that’s what Joyce meant then I’d tend to agree with him for many players. It didn’t work out at all with him and Konta, maybe Johanna wanted to change her game, which she has a bit, but it’s an interesting angle and after all he was 7 years with Maria. A pity Joyce couldn’t speak German – I wonder how his theory would have worked with Kerber. Fisette may have wanted her to change and she didn’t.

    This coaching roundabout fascinates me – I’m waiting to see how Wim deals with Naomi and how long that lasts.

  • Andrew Miller · December 26, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    Catherine, I read a piece on Last Word on Tennis, about Konta’s firing of Michael Joyce, and how her fall from peak in 2016 through end of 2018 had much to do with the death of her sports psychologist Juan Coto – which was devastating. Coto killed himself (rest in peace), and with Coto, apparently quite a sports psychologist, gone, Konta began the slide down the rankings. Fissete as you have said has a specific style, and Joyce’s encouragement didn’t help Konta either.

    I read one line (seriously, one line) about Konta being superstitious (as in, extremely so) that apparently Joyce said but I can’t find Joyce saying this anywhere other than an article that has the one line.

    Maybe superstition is the just the flip side of a momentum player, who needs everything going well (as Konta does) to win matches and if one thing is off, that’s it. Apparently that is Konta – her new coach promotes total preparation for any match so that Konta is always firing on all cylinders.

    That doesn’t strike me as a good thing. Being grooved is one thing, but over-playing isn’t. Peaking in practice seems like a bad idea. I like Konta’s approach to tennis and her going big all the time. I just don’t think it works as well as it used to. I don’t think slam champs are basically the female version of Rublev – they aren’t.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 26, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    Andrew, Davenport pummeled the ball, big power, big leverage on the ball and she LOVED to Play. A coach told me how much she loved playing as a teen, huge smile on her face every ball. Just loved it. Lots of talented players don’t have that all important love of just playing the game. Big strong massive hitter. One of the biggest power players in WTA history, make no. 1 in the category. She was the pioneer of what Mary Carillo labled, “Big Babe Tennis.”

  • Andrew Miller · December 26, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    BBT doesn’t work anymore? Maybe BBT tennis has been on the outs for a while – today’s crew plays all court (with a preference for winning from the back court).

  • Jeff · December 27, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Good discussion, here. Safin is right and so is Hartt. Everyone keeps saying, if, if and if but that doesn’t matter.

    I think what Safin and these players forget is Nick is in an era of social media in which he is beloved. He posts more on Instagram than any female player for goodness sake and plays video games the most to. I think he is determined to be the “cool guy” compared to his hard-working peers, which is why so many players around his age and younger have passed him.

    I think a good goal for him would be to lead Australia to the Davis Cup and then he will be a Hall of Famer. A Slam title is too out of reach given the hunger and talent of his peers.



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