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Marat Safin : You Will Be Missed

November 18, 2009

This week in Paris has been absolutely fascinating. As far as end of season tournaments go, Paris has been by far the best. Despite del Potro’s retirement, Federer’s first round loss, and Mandy’s loss to the ever annoying Stepanek, tennis fans have had plenty to enjoy. Rafael Nadal fought his way through to the semi finals, Gael Monfils gave the home crowd something to cheer for, and Novak Djokovic captured the title with his best tennis of the year. But before any of this happened, we said goodbye to one of tennis’s most loved men, Marat Safin.

Writing about a player you know hardly anything about should be difficult. Especially when you are hardly even a fan of said player. But the thing with Marat is, he inspired conversation and enthusiasm with all tennis fans, no matter how much you liked him. And even if, like me, you found it hard to support a man that dragged his feet through his last year on tour, appeared to hate the sport, spoke about having no friends on tour, and stated time and time again that he could not wait to forget about tennis, Marat Safin would somehow find a way to wiggle into your heart. Because despite his anti Federer/Nadal personality, there is a lot to love about the angry, misunderstood Russian. And I don’t just mean his good looks.

Marat Safin has something we don’t see much amongst the stern faced competitors of the ATP: a fabulous sense of humour. His pressers were always honest, interesting, and funny. Whether he was putting himself down, bemoaning the price of strawberries, or telling Andre Agassi where to go, Marat could always be counted on to say something funny and shocking. You can forget the formalities with Marat, want an alternative to Nadal’s humble post-loss speeches? Then Marat was your man.

Not the world’s best role model, this is the man who showed up to a match supported by a girl with her nipples showing. Then there was the time he arrived with a black eye, having found himself in a fight the night before. We were hardly suprised. Marat has walked off court after being called for a foot fault, and he has smashed more racquets than Fernando Gonzalez. He has never been very good at controlling his temper.

With all this anger, slutiness, and disdain for tennis, a casual tennis fan might find it hard to see what all the fuss is about. Indeed, hardly anyone could get away with the behaviour Marat has displayed over his career. Andy Roddick has acted similarly at times, but recieves as much criticism as he does love. The men I was too young to watch that threw racquets and went off their head seem to gather a lot of dislike as well. I have heard many people express their dislike of John McEnroe. Even Andre Agassi is finding the public against him after basking in their praise for many years. What is it about Marat that makes him so untouchable?

It sounds cruel, but Marat Safin simply has not had the career success to generate much hatred against him. Despite his two Grand Slams, fifteen titles, and a number one ranking, many people think that with a backhand that beautiful, Safin is an underachiever. Defenders of Marat point to a man called Roger Federer, and others say Marat is a choker through and through. The truth is probably a combination of both.

Marat has more than just an underdog charm to win so many people over. Marat has charisma. Oodles of it. He is funny, he is emotional, he loves his little sister, and, let’s face it, Marat is incredibly good looking. Marat wins male tennis fans over with his anger and sense of humour, women flock to his charm and his rugged bad-boy looks.

Yet there is still much more to Marat than good looks, anger, and humour. These are all entertaining characteristics, but there is one more thing that makes Marat so loveable. So relatable. Marat Safin spend his last year on tour itching to retire. Especially in the first half of the year, he spoke frequently about how tennis was boring, coming across as a man who hated the sport that had made him rich and famous. He said he had no friends on tour, that he didn’t enjoy it. It was around this time I wondered if I liked Marat at all. Then his retirement grew nearer, and I think we all saw the truth. Marat Safin was a man once hailed as the next big thing. He must have been filled with hope and excitement after his grand slam success. Things just didn’t turn out that way for him. Over the years, Marat became someone known as a choker, an underachiever, and people wondered what could have been. When Marat spoke of tennis earlier this year like he did, I thought I heard hatred in his voice. But what I heard was disappointment and bitterness. Marat Safin won two slams, was number one, won fifteen titles, and finished his career inside the top one hundred. Looking back, what a marvelous career he had. At the time, though, we didn’t think so. It isn’t Marat that let himself down. Tennis let Marat down.

So heres to the most universally liked player of the last decade. The man that has made every fan smile at some point. Marat Safin is one of the most likeable players ever because he is one of the most human. There is no robotic like talent, no humbled victories, nothing we can’t relate to, or see within ourselves. He is a man noone hates. There is noone else like Marat Safin. No player can replace him. When we looks back on him in the future, it isn’t his tennis people will remember. It is the man.

Now what an achievement that is.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. tennisdeva permalink
    November 18, 2009 9:00 am

    WAAAAAHHH!!!!! I want Marat back!!!!

    This was beautifully written. I love it. I saw a close up of the picture of him and Shanx and Shanx has red-eye. He looks like Satan LOL. I guess we’ll just have to look to the Fearhand to see those epic racquet smashes next year…

    … or hope Shanx goes through a rough patch of forehands in a match and gives us another good one like in Miami (classic).

    I never lost faith in Marat. I always liked him. I even wanted him to beat Sampras in 2000, which he did. I had no clue who he was then, but I was like “He’s a cutie. Such a cute smile.” Nine years later I didn’t think I’d be saying goodbye. 😦

    Why does it seem like your letters in this reply box are GINORMOUS?

    • November 18, 2009 9:11 am

      Thank u 🙂
      Yes they do look rather large. Do not want Roger smashing racquets… I think thats enough stoppage for my heart.

      I never really liked Marat until the end of this year. I mean I didn’t really love him until now. Cos it is impossible not to like Marat.

      It just makes me realise how hard it is going to be to say goodbye to Roger, Rafa, Andy and all of them… WAAAHHHH

  2. November 18, 2009 9:47 am

    Awesome read. You and Erin write really good stuff; I don’t have to read from other journalists anymore if you guys were to write more!! By the way I didn’t know you switched to WordPress!

    Anyway, I started watching tennis when Marat first made it big, so it was definitely sad to see him retire. It’s like I have come full circle myself! Nothing lasts forever.

  3. Jess permalink
    November 18, 2009 2:55 pm

    Nice try but nothing special here. I don’t feel that you really know Marat or did some extensive researches other than looking at a couple of other articles.

    And I don’t think I’m the only one – I’ll put your piece in the hardcore Marat’s fan site, let’s see what they think.

  4. Deirde permalink
    November 20, 2009 6:39 pm

    Nice one. It’s pretty good to know that even non-Marat fans write a piece dedicated to him.
    I am a fan of the Russian, but to be honest with everything, Marat’s magical misery tour was really miserable for tennis purists (I am not though). They can’t get past beneath tennis, they just love winners and stuff that makes you want to grind your teeth because of the awesome repetitiveness of tennis. They think Marat is sooo overrated.

    Now, if their favorite loses time to time they switch to another player. Actually he is one of the guys who you’d really appreciate watching, despite his loss of form due to back-to-back injuries, and since then people have left him, since he wasn’t winning anyway, no title ever since 2005.

    But what amazes me the most is that he still rakes in audiences all around the world. We fans watch poor crappy streams and subject ourselves to torture: fans of the achieving Roger Federer or the currently soon-to-be-great player Andy Murray or someone else’s bash us like it’s going out of style; or Marat himself inexplicably loses to challengers or narrowly wins third set tiebreaks when he should’ve won in the match in the second.

    This guy won’t get out of tennis. He’s just been in the talks of being the VP of the Russian Tennis Olympic Committee and I think we will be seeing him…

    considering he’s gonna play exhos, one in Argentina and Hongkong… and a visit to Belgrade courtesy of the tennis player who’s been a fan of Marat, Nole.

    • November 20, 2009 9:36 pm

      Thanks for the comment.
      I think Marat appeals to everyone really. I have not heard anyone say they hate him. I am a Roger fan first and foremost, but I am also a Gulbis fan… so I understand the pain Marat’s fans go through constantly. Ernie does the same thing. I kind of see him as a Marat in the making… if only he could have the success Marat does!

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