Safin Ends Season, Will Skip Davis Cup Final Against U.S.
by Sean Randall | October 19th, 2007, 3:04 pm

Turns out Marat Safin and I do have something in common: Neither one of us will be in attendance in Portland when the US meets Russia in the upcoming Davis cup finale. For me, visiting Portland in December is just not my cup of tea. For Safin, he says the Davis cup final is not in his future plans after spending the early part of this month traversing one of the largest mountains in the world. ADHEREL

In a statement on his official website,, reads, “Marat was not very happy with his standard of play at the Madrid Masters and has decided after discussion with his coach Hernan Gumy and his management that it would be better to finish his 2007 season now. His mountain adventure which he thoroughly enjoyed, took him out of his rhythm and also left him with no energy. He thought he was ready coming back in Moscow but found that the stress of playing back to back tournaments was too much and his body just was not ready to cope with it. He thought he could play at a good level but it didn’t happen.”

Safin’s absence will be a big loss not just for the Russian team, but also for tennis fans in this country. I’m a big Safin guy, and I know I’m not the only one here in the US that supports the big Russian. I mean how can you not like the guy?  He speaks his mind, he breaks rackets, he wins a Slam every now and then, he pulls his pants down, he likes to throw down a few vodkas, he climbs mountains, and of course he likes to roll a with some pretty fine looking women. He is one of the true characters in tennis today. I would imagine that if you polled fans on which player they’d most like to have a drink at the bar with, Safin’s going to be that guy.

And the Marat’s done just about everything there is to do in the sport, but sure you could argue that for all his accomplishment and talent he has underachieved. For a variety of reasons, perhaps due to injury or malaise, Safin has not won a title on the ATP circuit since his incredible 2005 Australian Open title run, and his two career Slam wins might not meet the expectations initially set for him after his US Open win. But I think to some extent Safin may be a victim of his own interests.

For guys like Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Ivan Lendl and others, getting to the top of the tennis world only drove them harder to stay on top. They liked the grind of being No. 1. On the other hand, I think when Safin got to the top he actually took a look around and smelled the roses. He enjoyed what it offered him. And I think he just knew to maintain that position would take away from his other interests in life – like getting to the top of a mountain! Obviously injuries set him back otherwise he’d surely have some more hardware in his trophy case. But if he had truly committed to tennis 100% who knows…

Another player like Safin who I think suffers from general tennis disinterest at times is David Nalbandian, who today absolutely destroyed World No. 2 Rafael Nadal at the Tennis Masters in Madrid. Nalbandian, who’s been MIA for most of the year, lost just three games in the match in his first meeting against Rafa. Nalbandian is a great player, an incredible talent, but dropping that kind of scoreline on Rafa in his backyard tells me Nadal had to be under some sort of physical distress. But credit to David for taking care of business.

With Nadal out, Roger Federer has a pretty clear a path to the Madrid title, with Feliciano Lopez today and then either Fernando Gonzalez or Nick Kiefer in the semi’s. If Novak Djokovic can stay healthy and beat Nalbandian in the semifinals tomorrow it would set up a tasty rematch against Fed on Sunday.

Back to the Russia-US Davis cup tie. With Safin now out of the lineup (for the moment at least) it will be interesting to see who Russia selects on their team. I think it’s pretty clear that Dmitry Tursunov will be on the squad but who’ll also be selected to play singles is the question. Obviously Nikolay Davydenko is the top ranked Russian, but the Nickel has never beaten either Andy Roddick and James Blake. That said, Russia could select Ivor Andreev who’s proven himself against Roddick and Blake or even Mikhail Youzhny. My early guess is that they will go with Andreev and hope for the best.

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18 Comments for Safin Ends Season, Will Skip Davis Cup Final Against U.S.

John (1) Says:

I too am a Safin fan. And the reasons that I like Safin are pretty much the same as you stated. He’s honest, funny, outrageous at times, a fun guy, one that I would like to have a drink with. He’s good for the game. He’s a reason to watch tennis. If I had to drive 5 hours to see one match, he would be one of a few that I’d make the effort.

John (1) Says:

I watched the Nadal/Nalbandian match this morning. (I had the sound off until the first match point. I don’t like to be distracted by the commentators.)

IMO, Nadal was playing like a slug. He seemed to have no energy. He was also missing easy shots.

Nalbandian on the other hand played well.

Nadal had four service games in the first set and got broken three times. At the end of the match they showed the stats. Nadal’s break points were 0/0! He didn’t have one break point chance! When did that ever happen?

John (1) Says:

For what it’s worth, I think that Marat never climbed that mountain. I think he left early and came back for the Kremlin Cup.

d Says:

Marat got to the base camp then changed his mind and went to watch Russia play Germany in the DC semi.

zola Says:

I think Safin has a mental breakdown. he needs something to boost his confidence. He has the game but is too lazy to practice or gat matches. Reminds me a bit of philliposis ( although Marat is a much better player). He has so many distractions that can’t focus on his game.

He should take Agassi as a model. In fact maybe he should go to Las Vegas , live with him for a while. He has to learn how to focus again, train hard and come back after a year off ans work his way up in the rankings.

I don’t want him to give up tennis.

Nadal was not even in the match. As he himself put it” total disaster”. I think his body did not cooperate after that grueling Murray match and Nalby was not the opponent you want when you are this tired. All credit to alby for a great win.

The same thing happened in Australia. As a Rafa fan it was painful to watch him. I wish he just withdrew. but his match with Andy was so great and full of spectecular shots that I console myself with those moments when I remeber that Rafa-Nalby match.

White Russian Says:

Safin is a malcontent undisciplined derelict. He also is a spoiled brat. He does not appreciate his achievements, and he does not recognize that he has squandered his natural talent on unimportant side interests.
Too bad, he did not fall down and go boom on that mountain, considering he had a limp wrist.
The problem is not his limp wrist; it is his limp brain.

dodobird Says:

poor tennisx sounds postiviely frightened out of their wits at the thought that the doggone Americans might actually win an international title that they’ve wanted to win since they were kids and have worked so hard to get. I’ll be looking forward to tennisx crying when USA wins, and deservedly so. Buckets of tears will flow lol. Gooo USA!

grendel Says:

Safin a spoiled brat? That’s just risible. He’s one of the very few players who is absolutely open and honest. You know when you read his interviews that he is speaking the truth – there is absolutely no looking over his shoulder to whoever might be listening. He seeks to impress nobody, and care nothing for the opinions of others. He is candid about his own shortcomings, and funny about them too. Eurosport filmed him shortly before his magnificent comeback, after a long spell away due to injury, in Australia (he beat Roddick and Agassi and ran out of gas against Fed in the final). He was being questioned about his training and general conditioning, and admitted he found it tough. “Nobody likes work,” he said disarmingly. Rings kind of true, doesn’t it, for most of us. Asked recently about Davydenko and the betting imbroglio, he said he knew nothing about it and cared less. He had his own problems and had enough trouble dealing with them. None of the prurient glee of the fulminating moralist, no pompous sermonising – and above all, no pleasure in gossip. This is a man without humbug.

Of course, he is a serious underachiever – how could he not be, as the only talent comparable to Federer’s over the last twenty years. Of course it is a puzzle, although big men like him are prone to injury and perhaps not a lot could have been done about that. Still, there is something else. I have always seen Safin as a sort of Russian Hamlet – a man gifted with a simple love of life and yet also tortured by indecision. There seems to be huge self-doubt in his makeup. Macenroe’s old doubles partener Peter Fleming put his finger on it, I suspect, when he says that some players who are happy at the #15 mark become thoroughly alarmed if they get to, say, #5. And so on. Safin had all the attributes of a great # 1, except self-belief. At some unconscious level, he wanted nothing to do with those rareified heights. Felt uncomfortable there, as if he didn’t belong. Thus Fleming, and I buy his theory.

People like Nadal and Djokovic are natural, fierce competitors with no fear of being #1. Too early to say, but I suspect Murray belongs there too. But Gasquet who, like Safin, has more talent than any of them, will never get there. He’s the French Hamlet. Malisse, too. Then you have players like Nalbandian and Lopez, certainly players with the raw ability to be in the top 5 or 6. Something stops them, not agonising in their case, hard to say what.

But Safin, Safin. When he was singing, he was a force of nature, glorious to behold. His tenure was brief – but whilst it lasted, there was nothing like it. Who can be so foolish, so blind as to mock him?

RedRussian Says:

To quote ^^^ classical theatrical characters such as Hamlet, is both incorrect and laughable. It would be more accurate and correct to compare and liken Safin to “Oberon”, a true, unmitigated asshead.

grendel Says:

Well, Oberon’s not so bad. You weren’t thinking of Bottom by any chance? I’m sticking with Hamlet. Indecisive, funny, tortured, truthful, attractive, quick tempered, gifted – that’s Safin: Hamlet will do. An ass? Someone’s being looking in the mirror.

Incidentally, does anyone agree that Fed’s return of serve has been quite phenomenal this tourney? Some of the anti-Fed brigade on these threads, desperate to find a weakness, have confidently pointed to Ferrer, Nadal, Agassi as his superior in this department. Sorry folks, on the evidence this week, just ain’t true.

More interesting is the widespread comment on the huge number of break points he’s had, but failed to convert. This is the new weakness, apparently. Well, maybe(supposed to be a failure of nerve, I gather). But there are alternative explanations.
For instance, with Lopez serving out of his skull, it’s pretty miraculous Fed got any break points at all, never mind so many. You could argue it was only exceptional skill that won the break points, and the final winning point was just one too many. Or: it was the constant threat to Lopez’ magnificent weapon (sorry!) which finally undermined his confidence, and led to a poor tie break. Punch drunk, so to speak.

Of course, with Nadal in Paris, it didn’t work like that. But then, after all, Nadal is Nadal, and to get him punch drunk on his own surface is a somewhat implausible proposition. But one has the feeling that people are extrapolating from that situation, and implying that Federer, wounded in Paris, is losing his nerve (just a bit – crumbs from the table) in critical situations.

I’m not convinced. He looks pretty confident to me. Be intriguing to see how he deals with a resurgent Nalbandian. Nalbandian has the game to worry Federer, there is no doubt about that. So there is a lot hanging on this match. Not just who wins, but what kind of a win.

Kara L. Says:

Nadal looked fine during his match, he was just befuddled. Nalbandian played a very intelligent match, he was putting that ball in places that Nadal couldn’t get to. It was very smart and agressive tennis.

Btw, you should note that both players have the same manager and Nalbandian knows Nadal so well that he knows how to play him perfectly. I don’t think Nadal was injured.

zola Says:

Nadal did not move at all. He was not getting to the balls that even I can catch them. The commentator said that he was limoing after the Murray match. I just hope his knees are fine. I think with the exhaustion from Murray match the last thing Rafa needed was an opponent like Nalbandian. He took full advantage and placed the ball very intelligently.

tomorrow’s match against Fed should be interesting. These two have not played in a while.

zola Says:

I have not watched lots of Fed’s matches in MAdrid but will watch the final tomorrow. A few that I did watch, and those from US Open, I noticed how his serve has improved. His return was always good but now he reminds me of Sampras. Shooting aces and putting pressure on the opponent. This is what Rafa has to do too.

lulu Says:

Grendel, thanks for your words about Safin, they ring so true… :)

Nalbandian Foils Federer to Cap Incredible Week in Madrid Says:

[…] Then again, like with Marat Safin, Nalbandian’s best game rarely shows up. So why he rose up to such heights this week is anyone’s guess. Ball girl models? I heard the player food was a thumbs up. […]

grendel Says:

Well, what a turn up! Infuriatingly, Sky Sports didn’t let us see the presentation following Nabaldian’s win – money, presumably, everything has to be guided by that. But one would like to know Fed’s reaction.

I thought Federer played well in the first set, although 6-1 flattered him – Nalbandian wasn’t far behind him. Second set was evens apart from Fed’s one poor service game. But in the third set, Nalbandian quickly got on top of Fed, and by the end was running him ragged. It’s true, Fed was playing badly – but that was due to pressure from the Argintinian; he was simply magic from the base line, and Fed had no answers.

Still, you can’t win them all. Federer has received a salutary lesson – let’s see how he responds. And Nalbandian – is he going to disappear again as he usually does after a great performance? Or will he at last learn to build?

Suddenly, the end of the tennis season is coming alive. It’s not just about who gets to Shanghai. Nalbandian really has thrown a spanner in the works, and not just where Fed is concerned…..

From Russia with love Says:

Well, Safin is Safin. Russian squad is powerful, but he’s like a talisman. I still hope that he changes his mind, and this time I’ll be praying for him to be this fickled and changing! And he’s surely one of the most spectacular players on the tour. No matter wins or loses, he leaves noone indifferent. His tennis may be marvelius, may be awful, and this makes spectators to watch what he’d show this or that time. Does tennis need or can provode any better promotion? It’s in its essence a game of mind and emotions, but not precise business-like technique))))

U.S. Davis Cup Hopes Rest with Roddick Against Russia Says:

[…] The Davis Cup final between the US and Russia gets under way later today in Portland, Oregon. Leading the way for the American team are familiar faces Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike. The underdog Russians will be without the services of Marat Safin, who ended his season in a month ago, but the squad remains powerful with Nikolay Davydenko, Dmitry Tursunov, Igor Andreev, Mikhail Youhzny and of course head coach Shamil Tarpischev. […]

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