The Russian powerhouse. One to watch: Marat Safin

The 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?