SAFIN to take on his bogeyman
10/31/2000 Stuttgart, Germany

On paper Marat Safin has all the qualities to be a strong indoor player. He has a big serve, is quick around the court and returns well. The No. 1 seed at Stuttgart will be looking to strengthen his position in the ATP Champions Race and finish the year on top form.

His first round opponent, Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, incredibly, has defeated him in all five of their encounters, the last being at the Sydney Olympics, and three times in all this year. Safin once said about Santoro: "Being told I am having to play Santoro is like being told I am going to die." He survived the matches, but never left the court victorious so far. However, the Russian is certainly not one to be intimidated by anything. The confidence of winning the US Open and defeating Pete Sampras would have made sure of that.

Santoro has had a reasonably good year, notching up a string of respectable results at most of the tournaments he has played in. His most notable success was Doha, where he defeated Rainer Schuttler in the final, a success that made him the first ATP Champions Race leader.

In Stuttgart he has already had a good first round victory against Goran Ivanisevic, a wild card at Stuttgart, but also a 1992 winner and 1994 runner-up.

This will be Safin's first match in Stuttgart and not one the No. 1 seed will be happy to be having to play in his opening match. The Russian will certainly have had little time to get into his stride and the match will be a good test of his mental strength.

Both these two recently played Moscow, Santoro went out in the first round and Safin reached the semifinal before going out to David Prinosil.

Santoro will be able to go into this match not only as the relaxed underdog, but also with the added confidence of having defeated his opponent in their five encounters. Safin will be put to the test here. All the worlds tennis eyes are watching to see if he will be the first 21 century's tennis legend. Noone can question his ability as a player and athlete, this will be however a test of whether he has the mental ability.