Russian powerhouse. One to watch: Marat Safin
end of 1999 and start of 2000 saw Safin suffering from a string
of defeats and contemplating packing it all in. Safin bounced
to fame at Roland Garros in 1998, where he defeated Andre Agassi
and defending champion Gustavo Kuerten, decided with his agent
to change coach. They approached former Russian champion Andrei
Chesnokov and after some persuasion he agreed. This was a big
turning point in the young Russian's career.
Marat Safin taught to do basics well by new coach.
When Chesnokov took over as his coach he made some very fundamental
changes in his game. Chesnokov noticed how many unforced errors
young Safin made and when he took him to the practice ground
soon made rules. Comments Chesnokov: "During the practice he
was looking around and waving at people passing by, saying ,"Hello
Sergio, hello Andre, hello Ericka, hello Monica." I said, "Come
on man how can you practice like this? The way you practice
it's impossible to play the tournament."
Safin needed to mature mentally and develop toughness, he was
breaking about a racket a week, he was hitting the ball too
hard and not finding a consistent rhythm. His new coach taught
him the basics of taking the pace off the ball, placing it and
hitting a good length. Safin had some natural strengths, a big
serve and powerful double handed backhand, but he also needed
to focus and gain experience.
Chesnokov taught Safin to fight for every point, and beat his
bad habit of letting his head slip if he lost the first set.
Safin was a good player before Chesnokov came on the scene,
but he needed guidance and a mature hand. His new coach can
be credited with helping the young man's temperament on court,
pushing him hard in practice, fighting for every point in a
match and never saying die.
Safin's fortunes have changed since Chesnokov came on the scene.
He has had some good victories, including most recently reaching
the final of Indian Wells where he was defeated in a close match
by Gustavo Kuerten. He has also had big wins at Toronto defeating
young Israeli Harel Levy, and he reached the final of Hamburg,
where he was defeated by Gustavo Kuerten.
Things are looking good for the young Safin and with a good
coach beside him and many years of tennis ahead who knows what
he can achieve?