You have to love Marat Safin. With just a month or so left in the longtime outspoken Russian’s pro tennis career, Safin is simply not afraid to call a spade a spade. Warning to players and his opponents, if you irritate Marat, be ready to get an earful from Marat. And that’s just what the former No. 1 did in Shanghai on Wednesday dishing out some damning rants on the top players.
In beating Safin in the third round, Tomas Berdych took a medical timeout late in the third set en route to his win, and Marat was none too pleased at Berdych’s antics and clearly didn’t buy Berdych’s injury.
Said Marat: “Just come on; just grow up a little bit; 26 years old; just deal with that … If you’re losing, just be a man; be a man and lose as a man. … Don’t pretend that you are injured and then you start running around and start to hit winners and then all of a sudden you pull the hands up in the air after winning the match? … So then of course the guy will say: ‘No, I’ve been injured but then I felt a little bit better’. … Of course he will find 10,000 excuses. Still, it’s not enough. You’re playing or you’re not playing. If you’re playing, so just shut…up and play.”
Safin was so enraged he didn’t even shake Berdych’s hand afterward. Whether Tomas was really injured or not only the Czech knows, but it’s refreshing in a way to hear players talk about things many of us feel, that players do fake injuries.
As for Roddick, who had complained of the ATP schedule earlier in the week, Marat was having none of that either.
Said Safin: “In 2004 we had this discussion in Olympic Games with Roddick about it and they were blaming me that I’m playing too much. … And I was saying that the season is too long. We should make it shorter. And the guys, they jumped on me, like I was the one who was wrong. … So look at all of them—everybody is falling apart. Everybody is getting injured left and right, and everybody is complaining the season is long. It takes six years to realise that something is wrong? … They just have to deal with that, not when they are 21 and ambitious and want to make money. They have to think a little bit with their brains and to make the career a little bit longer.”
And for the most part Marat is right. Players hardly are upset when times are good, but when things turn dour they are naturally more apt to point fingers. I brought this up earlier that when Roddick finished 2003 No. 1 he seemed to be quite happy with the schedule. Yet, now having won just TWO matches in the last two months the American is suddenly disenchanted with the workload required of him? If only we could see Marat and Andy have a discussion now…
It goes without saying that we’ll all miss Marat. In an age in which every word, every sentence and every syllable that comes out of the mouth of a pro athlete is measured and guarded, Marat remains a breath of fresh air int he sporting world letting loose his inner opinions and beliefs. And given his size, accomplishments and the respect he’s earned through the years, few – even bullies like Roddick – would dare to respond.
Safin says he has his future planned out, but one can only hope that he stays in tennis perhaps as a consultant, a board member or in someway as the person in charge of a players union. I would love to see that. Marat in charge of the players!
As for the matches on the court, credit to top seed Rafael Nadal for turning away James Blake for the second straight week in three sets. Blake pushed Rafa once again, but the Spaniard fought off another valiant effort from the American.
Nadal now meets his countryman Tommy Robredo and then likely my man Gael Monfils who faces Ivan Ljubicic, a surprise winner over Fernando Verdasco. I like Nadal to beat Robredo (who doesn’t) but maybe in a shorter best-of-3 format Monfils can make an impression. Maybe.
Also tomorrow I like Fernando Gonzalez to get his first career win over Nikolay Davydenko. I’ll take Stan Wawrinka to end the drought and finally beat Radek Stepanek and I look for Novak Djokovic, Gilles Simon and Jurgen Melzer to all advance.
The best match on the card is likely to be the tussle between Jo Tsonga and Robin Soderling. I think the winner gets to the final in that one and I like Tsonga just as I have all week. Soderling more than has the game to win – he’s 1-0 against the Frenchman – but Tsonga’s the hot player right now and I’m going to ride him until he loses.
Yesterday we also saw two more injuries as Tommy Haas (shoulder) and Juan Martin Del Potro (wrist) were both unable to complete their matches. For the oft-injured, unlucky Haas it’s business as usual but for DelPo it’s cause for concern. Hopefully it’s nothing serious but his injury and play this Asian swing does smack of signs of exhaustion and weariness. Like Roddick who also failed to win a match this month, I wonder just how interested DelPo was in journeying to Asia to begin with.
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