Since the 2006 season Marat Safin has been a guy that seems to have fallen through the cracks on the pro tennis circuit due mainly to injuries and a lack of motivation. What’s interesting is if you speak to some of the loyal Marat Safin fans they have been waiting for him to comeback and win slam after slam only to be disappointed by a first week exit never winning back to back games. Yet fans remain loyal and he even seems to pick up fans along the way, why is it like that? Is it his flaming temper? Or the nonchalant attitude Safin brings off the court? The exceptional god given talent bestowed upon Marat Safin? Or is it a combination of all the things that make up this interesting character Marat Safin?
The last week at Wimbledon has lead to a lot of talk about Marat Safin and the kind of guy he is. Simply because he has managed to put together 3 straight wins, something that has not happened in god knows how long and the second win came against the very confident 21 year old number 3 Novak Djokovic. That win against Novak Djokovic happened in straight sets for the 77th ranked Marat Safin. I think people got a chance to see why he has a following and why people have stood behind him over the years. Marat Safin is an interesting character who has the physical ability to beat the best on any given day.
One just had to watch the interviews that followed Marat’s win over Novak to see what kind of a guy he is. Here he was beating number 3 in the world and when asked about how far he could go in the tournament, he says he wasn’t thinking that far ahead and that he had actually bought his flight back because he didn’t think he would make it past Djokovic. As a spectator, fan or not, one has to sit back and wonder to themselves how a guy can seem so disinterested and have such a lack of drive and confidence yet still manage to come out and win against the number 3 in the world.
The key obviously to Marat’s success at Wimbledon 2008 is he seems to have shown up more mentally stronger. Marat is one of the guys on tour when the going gets tough he starts to break rackets and his game ends up broken like his rackets. This year’s Wimbledon in a tie break against Novak and the later stages of the match against Andreas Seppi where Marat couldn’t see because of the dark he managed to maintain his focus and avoid having mental break downs when the going got tough.
Physically Marat Safin is a tremendously gifted tennis player at 6’5”, 220 lbs. he is a monster and he is a surprisingly mobile guy unlike the other big men on the tour like Karlovic and Isner. Due to his height, he has a wicked serve that consistently hits the 135 mile per hour mark. Along with his serve he is known for a very consistent backhand and extremely heavy ground strokes with tons of pace. His game at net is good enough especially in this era tennis. On the other side his return game is very solid and he can move fast enough to defend when he needs to.
Safin has two weaknesses in his game, the first being his forehand and the second which is his greatest liability, the head game. Marat frequently gets himself out of a match just with his attitude and frustration. That is why many fans of Marat feel he has the strongest tools on the tour and the only reason he hasn’t been able to dominate is because the opponents he faces are in most cases mentally stronger than him especially those players in the top 10.
With the way things are going at Wimbledon this year many people are hoping to see Safin in a semi-final match against the great Roger Federer. Although for Safin to face Federer, he will have to get through the 13th ranked Swiss Stanislas Warinka and probably the 10th ranked Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, no easy task.
Safin is 0-2 against Wawrinka losing in Rome 2008 and the 2007 US Open. On Safin’s side, Wawrinka is 2-8 on grass and it is definitely not his favourite surface to play. Although Marat hated the grass and said it was for cows in the early 2000’s he now is enjoying the new grass because it has slowed down and the ball is bouncing higher. In any case tomorrow’s match between Safin and Wawrinka is going to be a good one and unless Safin has resorted to his old ways, I would expect him to come out on top in 4 close sets.
I guess the last big question remaining is if Marat does face Federer in the semis, could he crush the Swiss’ dream of winning 6 straight Wimbledon’s? This is a question that can only be answered on the day it happens. Safin has the tools to beat anyone, but whether he shows up is the question a true fan has to have answered first. That is probably why he has such a big following, Marat Safin is the guy known for lacking drive and confidence while having tremendous god given talent. However, on any given day, even if he is out of the top 50, Safin has what it takes to beat the best in the world.