Marat Safin and Russia headline season-opening Hopman Cup


December 29, 2000

TPERTH, AUSTRALIA (TICKER) -- Marat Safin will try to lead Russia to the Hopman Cup crown in his country's debut at this $1 million mixed team tennis tournament, which begins Saturday (tonight in the United States).

Safin came within one match of finishing 2000 as the No. 1 player in the world. Needing to finish unbeaten in round-robin play or reach the final at the Tennis Masters Cup in Lisbon to become the top-ranked player, he fell to Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi in consecutive matches.

Still, Safin had an extraordinary season. After losing his first five ATP matches of the year and getting fined for tanking at the Australian Open, he took on former player Andrei Chesnokov as his coach and captured consecutive events in Barcelona and Mallorca.

The 20-year-old Safin had another former Russian player, Alexander Volkov, at his side when he won his first Tennis Masters Series title at Toronto and captured his initial Grand Slam crown at the U.S. Open. He finished with a tour-best seven titles.

Safin will team with Australian Open quarterfinalist Elena Likhovtseva as Russia will compete in this event for the first time, although the Soviet Union and Commonwealth of Independent States participated in Hopman Cups II, III and IV.

Russia, the second seed, finds out its first round-robin opponents Saturday when Belgium takes on Japan in the play-in tie.