Marat Safin was born in Moscow on 27th January 1980 and you wouldn�t 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.

He 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 federation.

In that year Marat and his mother visited a specialist tennis academy in Valencia where Maria Pasqual, former director of Spanish women�s 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.

For 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).

However, 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.

Marat's 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.

Marat 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!