SAFIN's game steady even without permanent coaching rudder

08/16/2000 - INDIANAPOLIS

There's no permanent coach in the life of RCA Championships third seed Marat Safin - and the 20-year-old rising Russian star is not the least bit worried.

At the moment, Safin is in the temporary care of former ATP Tour professional and compatriot Alexander Volkov, who was with him during a title triumph at Toronto ten days ago.

In that finale, Safin hammered little-known Israeli up-and-comer Harel Levy. On Wednesday in the Circle City, Safin showed he's got Levy's number with a 6-4, 6-2 win in his first-ever match at Indy. The win puts Safin into the third round after a bye.

Safin rated his opening performance only so-so: "We didn't make big rallies and we didn't play as well as we can play. The first day of a tournament, you just want to get by the first two rounds. It was not a good match for the people."

Volkov is the second Russian to work with Safin in the wake of Andrei Chesnokov - who turned the Spanish-trained youngster's losing game around on clay in the spring. Prior to taking on Chessie, Safin was ired in a major slump and had even copped the firt fine ever issued at a Grand Slam (Australian Open last January) for not trying during a match.

Once the pair teamed up, Safin won six matches in a week - more than he had won the entire year - and won back-to-back clay titles in Spain.

He nows stands 42-20 on the year. The pairparted company when it became apparent that Chesnokov could not deal with year-round tennis travel.

Safin, though, who has now moved his base to tax-haven Monte Carlo in the company of many other tennis notables, is in no hurry to "settle down" with a travelling mentor.

"It's important to find a guy who understands you, who will be there for you on the court or anywhere 24 hours. Sometimes, you have to stay in the same room," he said.

Safin said that Volkov is on duty until the U.S. Open, when the younger man will then be on his own. "I know it's difficult, but I hope I'll find someone soon. But I think it's not a problem, I can travel by myself. And one day I'll find somebody."

Safin set the pace for seeds on a sunny and deddicedly less humid Day 3 at the Indianapolis Tennis Center.

courtesy Official 2000 RCA Championships Web Site