Open 2000 - John McEnroe about Marat Safin
Sunday 17 September 2000
Okay, the best match of the open was probably the semi-final
between Venus Williams and Martina Hingis, but the story of
the Open was Marat Safin. We've needed some fresh blood in
the men's game for a while - it's one thing to talk about
it, it's another to actually see it come about.
To me, Safin is a really interesting development, a guy from
Russia, with a personality, who shows he is now not just a
contender, but a champion. He's like Lleyton Hewitt, who is
going to be next on the list. It's up to the ATP Tour now
to market them properly, they are a part of the 'New Balls
Please' campaign designed to push the kids on and that's a
step in the right direction.
Having a Russian in the final meant there was an opportunity
for the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in town for a United
Nations summit, to come out and see him play, but he blew
the opportunity. After that submarine tragedy, he could have
done with earning a few brownie points. Our President was
there which added such a great amount of electricity to the
event and was exciting for tennis. He had a chat with Pete
Sampras after his semi-final victory over Hewitt, and that
made Pete feel 10ft tall, but it didn't do him any good to
have to come back the next day and play the final. When is
this schedule going to change for the good of the players?
Sampras handled what happened to him against Safin with class,
he took his butt-whipping like a man, and said the Russian
reminded him of how he was 10 years ago when he won the title
as a 19-year-old. I don't think Pete's finished yet because
a weight was lifted off his shoulders when he broke the Grand
Slam record at Wimbledon and he's a lot more comfortable with
I want to see Safin become the real deal. He is a great story.
He comes out of a country where people have struggled for
so long, is sponsored to go to Spain to learn the game, the
language and the culture, he develops a sense of humour in
three tongues. He shows a lot of emotion on the court, a fantastic
smile, he's a big, good-looking guy who plays in his first
Grand Slam final and hardly misses a passing shot. Tennis
has someone special and I hope it doesn't waste him.