It was the start of the tennis season and players were showing up for the first slam of the year, the Australian Open. Marat Safin shows up in Australia with two black eyes he said he got in an alley from a bar brawl in Moscow. I chuckled when I heard this story because this type of behavior is what you could only expect from Marat Safin. Only Marat would show up for work in this condition—if Marat had two black eyes, I hope the other guys looked just as bad!
Once upon a time when Marat Safin came on the scene he was being labeled the threat to Roger Federer’s dominance. He seemed poised to dominate the game, filling the void left at the top after Pete Sampras. He made it to the number one ranking, was a threat to Sampras before he retired, and had the game to threaten the top players for a long time.
Ironically in the Australian Open 2005 semifinal, while Marat was under the tutelage of Federer’s former coach, Pete Lundgren, he played Roger Federer. This match went down as the best match of the tournament and Federer was at the top of his game.
Whatever happened to Marat Safin, the man who once mooned spectators on the tennis court during a match? The man who could turn a tournament stop into a party? Two words, apparently: Monte Carlo. Apparently once Marat discovered Monte Carlo, they were a perfect fit. Marat did not know when to stop the party and when to play tennis.
Is Marat Safin’s tennis career a story of untapped potential? I have a feeling he would not agree. He did reach a level of success that many journeyman pros never achieve. He made it to a Grand Slam final or two and even won a couple of them. He also has the distinction of being one of the few players who has made it to the semifinal (or better) of all of the Grand Slam tournaments. For nine weeks he was number one in the world. He also made over $13 million dollars playing the game of tennis. Those are not too shabby numbers.
Every time I see him entered into a tournament these days, I find myself holding my breath, hoping he won’t get eliminated too early on in the tournament. It would be nice if he could post some good results his last year on the tour.
But it will be even sadder when he finally lays down his racket. The game has so few real personalities. If I were to offer up an epitaph to Marat’s tennis career, it would be that he enjoyed a career that took him many places in the world, was a grand slam champion, and reached the pinnacle of the tennis world. May he have a post retirement career after tennis just as enjoyable. Party on, Marat!