Waqar's inswinging yorker
12th May 2005, 02:46
JJ CARTER: Good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for calling in to today's call with Marat Safin. Marat joins us from Monte-Carlo. Marat is currently ranked second in the ATP Champions Race. He's preparing for a busy summer schedule which he begins the North American hard court circuit at the Tennis Masters Canada July 29th through August 4th. He then follows that with the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati, and the RCA Championships in Indianapolis. Marat won his first career Tennis Masters Series title in Toronto two years ago and went on to capture the US Open title later that summer. This season Marat reached the final at the Australian Open and the Tennis Masters Series Hamburg, as well as the semifinals at Roland Garros. We'll open it up to questions now.
Q. You once said a few years ago that you loved women more than tennis. Is that still the case?
MARAT SAFIN: You cannot compare pleasure with the business, my friend. It's two different things. So you have to dedicate yourself to the business or to the pleasure. Sometimes you have to choose between business and pleasure; you choose business. This is my case.
Q. Is tennis for you then a means to an end? Are you actually enjoying when you're on the court? Are you having a good time?
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah. But, you know, sometimes is difficult because for some reasons you don't -- it is not something just playing tennis, it's more like psychological game. It's not only passing the ball, just hitting the ball as hard as you can, just serve and volley. It's more than that. Sometimes you are using your head. Sometimes it's very difficult for some reasons, because you're not playing well, or you're playing well. So it's sometimes difficult. It's difficult sometimes to win matches for some reasons. Is what happened to me in Wimbledon and semifinals in Paris.
Q. I would like to know whether the Toronto experience two years ago, history may repeat itself, do you have a sense it would repeat itself, win here in Toronto, go on and win the US Open? Do you have a sense it could happen again?
MARAT SAFIN: Yes, of course, for me it would be great because now, as you can see, it's a little bit difficult to fight with Hewitt because he's playing great and he's like 150 points maybe ahead of me. Definitely have to do well in the tour of America and try to win one Super 9. If it would be Toronto it would be, you know, big thing for me, you know, to come back there and win it one more time. Of course, to prepare myself as much as I can for The Open because it's there where going to decide basically who is pretending to be No. 1 and who has more chances. I definitely want to be there and I definitely want, you know, I would like to try to finish this year still No. 1. It would be big honor. I want it but, you know, a little bit difficult. But I'm preparing myself. I'm preparing myself mentally. I'm working hard.
Q. What do you remember about that Toronto experience, winning the tournament two years ago?
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, it was great. It was just -- I never expect that I'm going to win a Super 9. You know, there I was playing great tennis. I beat Pete Sampras. I beat a couple of guys that, you know, you have to work hard to beat them. And I'm happy that I won. That give me a lot of confidence to win the US Open, definitely.
Q. When you talk about preparing yourself mentally, do you find that sometimes your temper gets in the way of your performance on the court? How do you control that temper?
MARAT SAFIN: You know, you're not the first one who is asking me this question, and I don't think you're going to be the last one. You know, for me it's tough to explain what the person he has in the head. Every person is different, as you can see, you know, in the experience of your life everybody is thinking different way. It's impossible to find two persons thinking the same way. It's very difficult because everybody has own style of life and just, you know, they're different. In my case, a lot of people, they think that it's kind of easy for me, tennis. You know, I have a lot of talent, that I have potential to win a few more Grand Slams, I have a big talent, but I'm just not focused enough, I'm not working enough, I'm not into it anymore. All the time they find to put me down all the time. It hurts. Of course, it hurts. But, my friend, is not so easy to, you know, just be with the talent. I think that is what they say. Is not enough. You have to find yourself like a player, what you want, how you want to play. Is not easy to play, especially when the tennis is more equal than before, and everybody can play tennis basically. Is not only Top 10, now is top hundred can play great tennis. You have to prepare every match and every match. This year, just I had a couple of bad loss, you know, like 7-6 in the third against Moya, a few other ones. 7-6 against Hewitt in Miami. So as you can see, I'm fighting. But I cannot make this small step that I need. It would be different story. For me, it's difficult. You know, I'm looking for it. I'm looking. I want to win. Of course, I want to win. Of course, I want to play tennis. Of course, I want to win a lot of Grand Slams. But it's not so easy. It's difficult to explain. It's not only tennis; it's more psychological game. I'm trying, but for me it's not so easy like for other persons.
Q. On that same subject, do you believe in sports psychologists? A lot of people believe in them. Do you use any?
MARAT SAFIN: No, I don't. I don't know, maybe. I never tried. I don't think I want to do it because - I don't know. Me, I'm not different, not completely nut case. I'm just different. Just don't know. People, they see what I'm doing on the court. Some people don't understand. But is not so difficult to understand. I don't know. I have to push myself sometimes when I'm losing. I have to push myself. I have to break racquet, whatever, just throw the ball out of the court. At the end it helps me. The way I played in 2000, you know, getting upset on the court. But this way I only can just push myself to work hard and to fight on the match. I liked it. It's good in this way, and it's bad because I'm showing too much that, you know, I'm too - how would say - I show too much on the court my emotion. I'm too emotional. So it doesn't help me. Of course, it helps me. It's just the way I am. I cannot change myself when I'm 22.
Q. John McEnroe used it to a great success. Do you see any comparisons between your temper and John McEnroe's? Maybe it helps you in some situations.
MARAT SAFIN: I would love to be like, you know -- to be in a way like him. But, I mean, you cannot compare me to John McEnroe. I mean, sorry, but he won 77 singles titles and 77 doubles titles. Me, I won one title and one final, so I don't think you can compare me to him. He's too good - too good. But is also different time, different tennis. I don't know. As you can see, nobody -- for example, this year, Johansson and Costa won the tournaments, so nobody can make. I don't know, like Hewitt or Federer going to win five Grand Slams or six Grand Slams, you know, something like this. It's very difficult because is too many people who are playing too good tennis.
Q. A lot of people like to see athletes show emotion like you have. People complain that tennis players don't show enough emotion. Do you find that you're more appealing to tennis fans because of your willingness to show emotion? Do you think more people should show emotion like you on the court?
MARAT SAFIN: I don't know. It's the way I am. It's nice actually to hear a lot of people, they like watching me play. It's very nice. But just, you know, the tennis stars, you don't have to forget at the end of the day it's a beautiful sport. I don't know, it's a gentleman's sport, whatever you can say. But is entertainment for the people, for the spectators. And they don't have to forget this thing. We are just entertainment.
Q. You talked a little bit earlier about the year end No. 1 and all. I wondered if that motivated you as much as Grand Slam titles? Is that something that still is as important as -- to be the year end No. 1? Does that motivate you as much as winning Grand Slams?
MARAT SAFIN: I mean, you cannot be No. 1 in the world without winning a Grand Slam. It just like doesn't work. But just it's going together. You have to. I mean, if you can win one Grand Slam in the year, then it means you are fighting for No. 1. So it's coming together. Of course, I'm motivated to be No. 1. Of course, I'm motivated to win. I would love to win a lot of more Grand Slams. You know, it would be great, but it's not so easy. Is not so easy. But you have to fight. I'm still fighting. I'm trying. I'm looking for myself. I'm looking for my game. Just sometimes it doesn't work, but you have to keep on trying.
Q. Do you see yourself, when you're out there on the court, have you been playing at the same level as 2000? People know your game more and it keeps getting more and more competitive to play at that high level week-in and week-out as you did that 2000 summer hard court season.
MARAT SAFIN: No, 2000 I think I played amazing tennis. I had so much confidence. I was playing just great. I was impressed myself that I could play such great tennis. I was surprised actually that I can be -- I mean, I can be good, I can win a Grand Slam, I can win two Masters Series tournaments, win in one year seven titles, is not so easy. I was playing great. I was playing with so much confidence. And this year, yeah, I can. I'm trying. But is not. I'm still far away. But, you know, I'm trying to get there. I'm trying. I'm looking for it, trying to. But is already half a year passed. Not many months is still left so I have to hurry up (laughter).
Q. What you were just talking about, does the beginning of the hard court season in North America help you out because you have had success in this part of the tour before?
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah. I mean, I always like to play in the States. I always played good tennis. Is what the question was, this question?
Q. Yes. Like you were saying, in 2000 you played so well.
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, yeah, but, you know, I was make quite good results in US Open. I don't know. I'm feeling comfortable, very comfortable, playing on the hard courts. So it's basically the tour of States. I like. I don't know, I like the courts, I like everything. For me it's easy to play good tennis there.
Q. Is there, do you think, a clear No. 1 in men's tennis right now?
MARAT SAFIN: No, not at all, at all. I don't think there is clear No. 1. You can be a little more lucky, a little bit unlucky. But there is not a one, you know, No. 1 like was Pete Sampras, this kind of guy. No, no, no. Everything is too close and everybody can beat everybody, so is basically ... Of course, we have Hewitt. He's a great player. But still, you know, he has some problems with other players, I mean, on clay courts. Playing against him, we have a chance. We know we have a chance. We know if we are fighting, we can beat him. Against Pete Sampras a few years ago when you were going on the court with him, you knew that you have no chance to beat him. It has to happen something, I mean, that he will not feel great, he will miss a couple of volleys, he will not serve so great, you know.
Q. Is the fact that there's no clear No. 1 a good thing or a bad thing for the fans, do you think?
MARAT SAFIN: I don't know. Let's see. Let's see how it will work. I mean, it's just -- you know, the tennis is changing. It's still some more young people are coming. Already the Top 10 is already young players. It's Ferrero, it's Hewitt, it's me - I consider myself a young player - Federer, Grosjean, Haas. They're young. You know, like my generation, '78, '79, '80 and '81, these year. I think in one or two years we'll see who is. Something going to happen, I think. Somebody will take care of No. 1, a real No. 1.
Q. Tennis doesn't really have a season. The tour runs pretty much year-round. How hard is it to avoid burnout and to keep yourself engaged in the game?
MARAT SAFIN: Can you a little bit explain the question, a little bit? You went too far with this thing. Just make it for me a little bit more simple.
Q. Because the tour runs year-round and doesn't really have long breaks, how hard is it to not burn out?
MARAT SAFIN: Okay, okay, I get you. It's difficult. I can tell you that how you can -- basically it's traveling 11 months a year. Can you believe it? 11 months? And it means that we are changing basically every week from tournament to tournament or we're trying to go for practice, you know. All the time it's airport, car, hotel, court, home, hotel, tournament, all the time like this. I think for me it's difficult because I'm also scared of flying, yes. I have this paranoia. But, I mean, we are trying. Everybody has the bad periods of the year, you know, when you don't want to do nothing. You are just tired of traveling, you are tired of playing tournaments, and you need to rest. So then you take two weeks, three weeks off, you know, just go out, just enjoy your vacations, to be able to start again and start to playing well because you cannot play well during 11 months of the year. So you have one month you're playing great, another month you're not so great, then you have bad losses. But you have to work on it, and it's very difficult sometimes to find the motivation to play. But also you have to see it's a job. It's quite a great job. It's nice work to do. But, of course, everybody -- I mean, everybody is taking even vacations, like make sessions of five tournaments, take two weeks of vacations.
Q. Have you ever wanted to do anything else besides play tennis?
MARAT SAFIN: I mean, to quit tennis and to do something else?
Q. Or when you were growing up, did you want to do something else?
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah. But, you know, you have to see from other side. Of course, you can find work to do, like not only tennis. But it's difficult. It's difficult to push yourself because you are already playing tennis since you are six, and I'm already 22. So it's like I'm playing for long time. And if I want to learn to do something else, I need to go back to school, I need to study, I need to spend the time with the lessons. I need to, you know, start again, start over, start zero, from the beginning. So I think it's better to keep on playing and do whatever I can do, and do whatever I like, which is play tennis. Yeah, but I like it. You know, just it's nice game. I think it's great.
Q. I read somewhere that your parents named you after the French revolution figure Jean-Paul Marat?
MARAT SAFIN: No, it's just a Muslim name. I think you know that I'm Muslim, you know, this religion. Yeah, that's why they call me because is Muslim name.
Q. Does the name mean something in Muslim?
MARAT SAFIN: Somebody told me, but I forget. I don't know. I don't know. Freedom. I don't know, something good for sure (laughter). Not French revolutionary. But I hope also because of him. Maybe because of him also. Maybe something it's a royalty (laughter).
Q. You mentioned that you're afraid to fly.
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah.
Q. Does that affect your game at all?
MARAT SAFIN: No, it affects me. Not tennis, it affects myself. Every time I go in the plane, sometimes I'm too scared.
Q. Just added stress to the travel.
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, is difficult. But I'm taking sleeping pills, so is okay.
Q. Tell me what Lleyton Hewitt is doing right now that he's established himself as the No. 1, even though he's not a dominant No. 1. What have you seen change in his game over the last couple of years?
MARAT SAFIN: Just that he's a big fighter. He's more - how would say - you know, during the year his average is very high. He doesn't have bad losses. Every tournament he plays, he makes something. Instead of other guys, we can play great tennis, but sometimes we have such a bad losses, for example, I don't know. You have like second round a few times in a row. And he doesn't make this. He's very stable during all the year. That's what he has.
Q. Tell me about his groundstrokes and so forth. Is his game consistency?
MARAT SAFIN: Consistency, yeah, yeah. You are right.
Q. Are his groundstrokes the best in the game? Are Agassi's better?
MARAT SAFIN: Can you bring it again?
Q. His forehand and backhand, do you think are they the best in tennis or is there someone better?
MARAT SAFIN: No, I think -- Hewitt, what is good, his complete game. He has everything, you know. But he doesn't have the best forehand. The best forehand, I don't know who has at the moment. Ferrero maybe. Federer I think is the best forehand. One-hand backhand type thing is Kuerten. Tommy Haas is great backhand, one-hand. And two-hands backhand I think Kafelnikov, Agassi. And how to say this one? The Russian one, doesn't have a bad one also. What is his name, the young one, the tall one? This guy, you know (laughter)?
Q. I'm not sure which player that is.
MARAT SAFIN: The one not playing too bad. He beat once Sampras in the finals of US Open. Do you know him (laughter)? Safin, maybe Safin? I mean, I don't know, I consider myself I don't have a bad backhand. Not super, but I'm working on it.
Q. What do you think about the fact that there isn't a dominant player in tennis? Some people would say the game is as balanced now as ever. What do you think the reasons for that are? Why isn't anyone able to dominate nowadays?
MARAT SAFIN: Because everybody can play tennis and everybody just -- everybody can play, everybody. Means not only Top 10 players, they can play tennis. Means that the level of the guys like out of Top 10 is very high. That is the reason.
Q. Do you foresee anyone could get to a level where they can do what Sampras did for five years in a row?
MARAT SAFIN: I think now is a stage of being more -- the tennis has to be more equal. Of course, is going to be the guy that come up with something huge. I mean, it goes by times, you know. So I think it will be a few years like this, then it's going to come back the big guy going to come and he going to kick our ass big time.
Q. Could you be that guy?
MARAT SAFIN: I will be too old already for this (laughter). But I'm trying. I'm trying. But it's difficult. I'm trying hard, believe me.
JJ CARTER: Thank you very much, Marat, for joining us. Good luck, travel safe. We'll see you this summer.
MARAT SAFIN: Okay, bye-bye.
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