Safin, Wilander join forces

Monday, February 26

MOSCOW пїЅ U.S. Open champion Marat Safin will take on former world No. 1 Mats Wilander as his coach.

"Starting next week with a series of tournaments in the U.S., Marat will be coached by Wilander," Shamil Tarpishchev, president of the Russian Tennis Federation, said Monday.

"They haven't signed a contract yet because they first want to give it a test. But if everything works fine, then it can be a long-lasting partnership."
Safin, who changed his coach four times last year, hopes the Swede, a winner of seven Grand Slam titles in the 1980s, will help him refocus after a shaky start to 2001.

"I'm sure Wilander, who had a great career as a player, can teach Marat a few tricks about how to keep his temper under control," said Tarpishchev.

Wilander last played on the ATP Tour in 1997 and has since played on the seniors tour.

Safin, who turned 21 a month ago, is known for his hot temper. Wilander was the epitome of the ice-cool Swede although his career went into a nosedive once he became No. 1 after winning the Australian, French and U.S. Opens in 1988.

The talented Russian finished last year as world No. 2, but has been in a dismal form since the start of this year. Last week, he was knocked out in the first round of the World Indoor tournament in Rotterdam by Belarussian Max Mirnyi.
Safin hopes last year's pattern, which brought him within one match of ending the year as number one, will repeat itself.

Safin broke with his first coach, Spaniard Rafael Mensua, when he struggled in the first four months of 2000 with a 5-11 record.

But Safin turned things around under Andrei Chesnokov, winning his first title in Barcelona in April and another in Mallorca a week later. But their partnership lasted only until the French Open.

Just before Wimbledon, Safin turned to Britain's Tony Pickard, once the coach of former Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg, to learn how to play on grass.
Then, for the U.S. Open, Safin employed another former Russian champion, Alexander Volkov. Last October, Safin returned to Mensua, who has known Safin since December 1993.

But after he was beaten by Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten for the year-end No. 1 crown at the Masters Cup in Lisbon last December, Safin again parted company with Mensua.

Now, it is Wilander's turn.
"Aside from Wilander, Volkov will also accompany Safin to tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami," said Tarpishchev.
"Hopefully, the two of them will be able to guide him on to the right track."