Coaching Carousel: Safin Seeks To Hire Volkov Or Cherkasov As New Coach

By Richard Pagliaro

Marat Safin goes through coaches almost as rapidly as racquets. The former ATP leader in smashed racquets is now seeking his third coach of the season and has set his sights on former coach Alexander Volkov and compatriot Andrei Cherkasov as possible candidates.

The Russian media has been reporting that Safin already reunited with Volkov, who worked with Safin during his run to the 2000 U.S. Open title, and suggested they would resume their working relationship starting at next week's Tennis Masters Series-Monte Carlo event. However Russian tennis director Shamil Tarpishchev said today that while Volkov has been asked to coach Safin he has not yet agreed to take the position.

"Contrary to what the Russian media has reported, Volkov is not coaching Safin," Tarpishchev told Reuters. "Indeed, both Safin and myself have asked Volkov to coach Marat, but so far without any success. The problem is that Volkov has some personal problems at the moment and he can't devote all his time to coaching."

Should efforts to persuade Volkov to coach Safin prove unsuccessful, Tarpishchev said Cherkasov could be considered as a possible replacement for the post.

"Cherkasov's name has come up as a possible candidate, but we all hope that Volkov will change his mind," Tarpishchev sad.

The Australian Open runner-up has already gone through two coaches this year: Mats Wilander and his business manager, Amit Naor.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Wilander began working with Safin last spring, but was unable to travel with Safin consistently due to his family and commitments to the senior circuit. Wilander, who is based in Idaho, injured his knee during a senior tournament in Naples and split with Safin prior to the start of the American hard-court spring season.

"I think everybody understands that Mats is playing tournaments on the senior tour and that he has a family," Safin said. "It's a bit difficult to have a coach for all the year. That's what I need, a coach that can spend with me like 30, 40 weeks a year. He could not make it for those reasons."

Initially it seemed an odd pairing пїЅ the stoic Swede Wilander who rarely raises his voice with the volatile Safin, whose inner-emotions can clash as quickly as cars in a demolition derby staged in a dark alley. But Wilander appeared to have a calming influence on Safin, who played through various injuries last year yet still managed to reach the U.S. Open semifinals.

"I think it was the right solution just to finish but I'm still maintaining contact with him," Safin said. "We are good friends and that's more important than to have a business together I think."

The 22-year-old Safin has gone through several coaches in his five-year career including Rafael Mensua, Briton Tony Pickard and fellow Russians Andrei Chesnokov and Volkov.

During his run to the Australian Open final in January, Safin was accompanied by a sizeable entourage including coaches, trainers and attractive female friends, all of which made the friend's box at Rod Laver Arena look a bit like a coaching convention attended by the Laker girls.

Prior to the start of the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells, Safin said he had hired Naor, his manager, as his coach for the time being despite Naor's limited experience coaching elite pros.

"I'm trying to work with him," said Safin. "For the moment it's going well. I don't want to change anything."

Apparently, Safin couldn't resist one more change пїЅ a change of heart пїЅ which has now led him back to Volkov.