Safin was born in Moscow on 27th January 1980 and you
wouldnï¿½t have needed a crystal ball to predict that this
guy was to be a tennis star.
Marat was introduced to the game at a very early age.
His mother, Rausa, was a former top 10 Russian who used
to take baby Marat with her when she practised at the
local Spartak club, managed by his father Mikhail. This
is where Marat also learnt to play.
had picked up his racket almost as soon as he could walk
and at five was hitting balls alongside a toddling Anna
Kournikova, another member of the same club until 1992.
When Marat was 13 his parents decided to see if they could
send him abroad, realising that he could not fulfil his
potential using the dodgy facilities of the Russian tennis
that year Marat and his mother visited a specialist tennis
academy in Valencia where Maria Pasqual, former director
of Spanish womenï¿½s tennis, was asked to assess his potential.
Pasqual liked what she saw and managed to persuade a Swiss
client into sponsoring Marat and keeping him at the academy.
four years Marat lived in Valencia employing Pasqual as
his career advisor, lodging with a retired teacher and
studying at the tennis academy as well as working on his
great clay court skills and learning the Spanish language
(which he now speaks perfectly).
in 1997 his sponsor changed management company and Marat
was sent back to his native Moscow. But, despite home-sickness
at first, Marat had learned to love Spain and begged his
agency IMG to let him return to his adopted home. They
agreed and he still lives in Valencia today, employing
Spaniard Rafael Mensua as his coach.
first title came in 1997 at a Challenger in Espinho
and soon afterwards he turned pro. His introduction
to the ATP Tour came in November of that year when he
took part in the Kremlin Cup in the city of his birth,
Moscow. Unfortunately he went out in the first round
to the Dane Kenneth Carlsen but since then his career
has gone from strength to strength.
won his first title on the ATP Tour in August 1999 when
he beat Greg Rusedski in the final of the MFS Pro Championships
in Boston. He has also reached the last 16 round of 3
of the 5 Grand Slams he's taken part in so far.
The future certainly looks rosy for Marat. John McEnroe
has already predicted him as a future top-tenner and like
his former mentor, Maria Pasqual said, "He will be a champion
one day" - surely he already is!