|:: PROFILE ::|
Marat Mikhailovich Safin
|January 27, 1980; Moscow, Russia|
Monte Carlo, Monaco
1.93 meters (6'4'')
88.6 kg (195 lbs.)
Russian, English, Spanish
Right handed (two-handed backhand)
Father � Misha, Mother � Rausa Islanova, Sister -Dinara
MARAT MIKHAILOVICH SAFIN
So, at the age of 14, Marat left home to travel to Spain. All alone, Marat was faced with the prospect of learning a new language and honing his tennis skills in a foreign land. Over the next 4 years, Marat trained in Valencia under the guidance of Pasqual and Rafael Mensua. During this time, Marat learned to speak Spanish fluently, and it is one of the three languages that he speaks.
In 1997 Marat moved more than 200 ranking positions with an 11-5 match record in Challenger play. He won his first title in Espinho, and soon afterwards turned pro. Marat made his Pro Tour debut at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, losing to Carlsen in the 1st round.
In 1998 Marat grabbed the attention of the game's best as well as the sponsors when he stormed into Roland Garros and upset Andre Agassi in the first round. He then went on to take out the defending champion Gustavo Kuerten in the next round before eventually losing to Cedric Pioline in the fourth round. He also made his first tour semifinal in Long Island and reached the fourth round of the US Open where he lost to Pete Sampras. By the end of the year, Safin had gained nearly 150 ranking spots and had finished the year in the Top 50. Marat was named the RADO Player to watch for 1998.
His upward climb continued during his second year on tour. In 1999, he was the No. 2 Russian (behind world No. 2 Kafelnikov). Marat won his first ATP title in Boston defeating Greg Rusedski while only dropping one set in five matches. He was also one of three teenagers (Ferrero, Hewitt) to win an ATP title during year. Marat helped Russia to the Davis Cup SF by winning fifth and decisive matches in 1st round and quarterfinal ties.
In February, Marat advanced to back-to-back semifinals in St. Petersburg and Rotterdam. During the clay court circuit, he advanced to the 4th round at Roland Garros for the second straight year and in August, made it to the semifinal in Amsterdam.
During the European indoor circuit in November, he reached his first TMS final in Paris with wins over No. 5 Kuerten, Courier (QF) and Chang (SF) before losing to Andre Agassi in four sets. He has also reached the last 16 round of 3 of the 5 Grand Slams he participated in. All of these accomplishments saw Marat reach the top 25 ranking for the first time in his career.
The year 2000 was both up and downhill for Marat. After a less than promising start that was highlighted by a few difficulties, Marat turned his year around with back-to-back titles in Barcelona and Mallorca. By this time he was working with former Top 10 Andrei Chesnokov as a coach. Like with all thrill rides, Marat made a quick and stunning run along the circuit and in a very brief time had captured his first Tennis Masters Series title in Toronto, and made the final in Indianapolis. His coaching carousel began with the subsequent hiring and firing of two more coaches, Alexander Volkov and Tony Pickard.
The highlight of Marat's young career came weeks later when he won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, where he demolished former champion Pete Sampras in the final.
The following week he made the long journey to Tashkent and only dropped one set in five matches. He became first player to win an ATP title the following week of a Grand Slam title since Ivan Lendl in 1985. He continued his strong play by winning the TMS Paris title, defeating Philippoussis in a 3 hour 29 minute marathon.
Marat's training on the red clay of Spain was paying off as he was one of four players to win at least 25 matches on clay (25-9) and hard (36-15) courts. He led the ATP in aces (921).
Marat let the ATP with seven titles and held the number 1 ranking spot for a short time. He became youngest player to finish No. 2 since 19-year-old Boris
Becker in 1986... He also became first player under age of 21 to win at least seven titles in a season since Mats Wilander. He led ATP in singles matches won (73), finals reached (9) and was second in singles matches played (100).
He 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. He was named ATP Most Improved Player of Year and named 2000 Newcomer of the Year at Laureus World Sports Awards in Monte Carlo.
2001 was another year of ups and downs. Marat started strong with a 4th round in the Australian Open and a final in Dubai. However, a back injury cramped Safin's play and set him back for 3 months. He began working with former No. 1 Mats Wilander at this time. He made his turnaround at All England Club where he reached his first QF, losing to eventual champion Goran Ivanisevic in four thrilling sets. Marat then reached the semi-finals at the US Open and successfully defended his titles in Tashkent and St. Petersburg. He finished 2001 just outside the Top Ten at No. 11.
After a disappointing and injury plagued 2001, Marat came into the new year of 2002 ready to rumble. He pounded his way to the Australian Open final, beating Pete Sampras and Tommy Haas along the way, but he stumbled in the final, losing to Thomas Johansson. The final was played on Marat's 22nd birthday, but despite the disappointing loss, he gave one of his famous witty speeches and the Swedish fans even sang happy birthday to him.
During the clay court circuit, Marat reached the final of TMS Hambürg without dropping a set, before losing to Roger Federer. He continued his strong play at Roland Garros where he reached the semifinal for the first time before losing to Ferrero. Marat struggled in the next two Grand Slam tournaments, losing in the 2nd RD at Wimbledon and the US Open. His relationship with Mats Wilander ended in the middle of this year and Marat began working with his manager, Amit Naor, and his good friend Denis Golovanov, as coaches. Eventually Naor stopped travelling with Marat but his relationship with him continues, just not as a coach.
Marat managed to salvage another disappointing year with a win over the world's number 1 player Lleyton Hewitt at the TMS Paris. Given a newfound confidence, he went on to lead Russia to their first ever Davis Cup victory. He again was one of the top 8 players in the world to reach the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai.
In 2003, Marat finished out of Top 50 for first time since 1997. His play was limited to 13 tournaments after suffering throughout the season with a left wrist injury.
In 2004, the No. 1 Russian battled back from an injury-riddled 2003 season to finish in the Top 4 for third time in five years. He won three ATP titles, including two ATP Masters Series shields, and reached two other finals. Marat was the runner up to Roger Federer in the Australian Open, losing in straight sets after gruelling victories over Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick.
After the unexpected final appearance at the Australian Open, Safin's comeback took another turn for the worse, with early round losses throughout the summer, including a first round loss at the US Open to Thomas Enqvist.
Safin took on a new coach, Peter Lundgren late in 2004. He went on to win the title in Beijing followed by wins in Madrid and Paris TMS events. Safin managed to pull his ranking up from No. 86 to finish the year No. 4 in the world, making his fourth appearance in the Tennis Masters Cup in Houston.
2005 started out great with Marat finally winning his long awaited second Grand Slam title in Australia. After taking out the defending Champion Roger Federer in the semi-final, Safin went on to take the title from Australia's own Lleyton Hewitt. Marat struggled in the next seven tournaments (8-7 record) before advancing to 4th round at Roland Garros, defeating Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo. In June, he reached his first career grass court final in Halle, losing to Federer in three sets. Safin followed this with a third round showing at Wimbledon. Safin did not play again until mid-August due to left knee injury. He finally withdrew from the US Open and the Masters Cup due to his injury.
In 2006 Safin was unable to defend his Australian Open title due to his lingering left knee injury. He struggled over the next few months, finall replacing coach Peter Lundgren with Hernan Gumy. Safin helped Russia win the Davis Cup title (vs. Argentina) by winning the fifth and decisive rubber over Jose Acasuso. Safin also won crucial matches in the 1st round tie against France (d. Gasquet) and the semifinal tie against the USA (d. Roddick).
2007 was a continuation of the struggle Safin faced in 2006. He was now 2 years without a title, his last coming at the Australian Open in 2005. He failed to reach an ATP final for first time since 1998. In April, Safin won the fifth and decisive match against France's Paul-Henri Mathieu to lift Russia into the Davis Cup Semi Final.
In 2008 Safin finished in the Top 30, reaching one ATP final and making his first Semi Final appearance at Wimbledon during an up-and-down season. At Wimbledon, Safin surprised No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic in the second round and No. 9 Wawrinka in the 4th RD before losing to five-time champion Roger Federer in the semi finals. In October he advanced to the final in Moscow before losing to before losing to fellow countryman Igor Kunitsyn. Safin overcame a huge personal hurdle in 2008 in the quarterfinal of Davis Cup, where he came back for the first time in his career from a 2 set deficit to beat Thomas Berdych.
2009 continues to be a struggle for the 24th ranked Russian, who declared at the end of 2008 this would be his final year on the ATP tour. Safin fans around the world are saddened by this news, although it appears, considering Safin's recent results, that the time for retirement may be right after all. He will be dearly missed by all of his longtime followers, and fans around the world will have to look long and hard to find another player who comes close to matching Safin's notorious wit, talent and sense of humour.