March 10, 2003
PACIFIC LIFE OPEN , Indian Wells, California
M. SAFIN - S. Koubek 3-6, 6-3, 7-5
An interview with: MARAT SAFIN

MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. You seem to have lost it two or three times, yet you hung in and won. How did you do that?

MARAT SAFIN: Excuse me?

Q. You were on the ropes about two or three times, coming back in the third set from breaks down. What did you go through mentally to get yourself back?

MARAT SAFIN: No, just I couldn't fight. I played the first set, I had two breakpoints in the first and opening game, and then unfortunately I couldn't make a break, then a little bit I lost the game first set.
Then I came back in the second. He just threw everything out, he was missing all over. And in third set, he was playing his great tennis, I think. He was going for the shots, and that I didn't expect. That's why I make -- you have to wait for an extra ball, but a really tough one, because he was going from all over the court - just down the lines, forehand, backhand. He was playing great, and he was serving well.
Just in the third set, when I was 3 - Love down, I knew that I have a chance because he cannot play this type of game, you know, for a long time. Until it gets really -- until the end of the match, he probably will miss all these shots. And he did, then he start to play a little bit slower, he was not going for too much, he was missing.
So that's how I won. I stayed in there.

Q. Are you a player that plays better or worse when emotion and exterior things going on with calls and crowd; are you a player that plays better or worse in those situations?

MARAT SAFIN: The thing is, you get upset when you can say that the calls are like -- you know for sure the ball is out and they're telling you it is in, and you get upset. Today it worked.

Q. Are you able to use that?

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, it gives you a little bit energy because also I'm coming here, playing tennis, not just to fight with the chair umpire. But still it's pissing me off when it's so many -- not so many mistakes, it's mistakes on important moments of the match, and like you just trying to hang in there in the match, and you're waiting for the mistakes from your opponent, and still they make mistakes on the calls.
I understand that they're people, they're human beings, but still I got upset. But it worked, otherwise I don't think I would be able to react in the third set. That's why I came out with such a --.

Q. What was the nature of your injury? You called the trainer in the third set.

MARAT SAFIN: I had a big hole on the shoe.

Q. You had a hole in your shoe?

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, I broke the shoe. I had a hole. Like when I was sliding, I was -- I had a cut on my skin and I couldn't slide anymore.

Q. It was on your left foot?

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, left.

Q. Did you just make that hole in your shoe in that match, or have you been wearing that shoe for a while?

MARAT SAFIN: No, in that match.

Q. Sounds like you might have called a shoemaker instead of a trainer.

MARAT SAFIN: Easier to call a trainer than a shoemaker.

Q. You got the code violation for what reason? Taking too long? Verbal abuse?

MARAT SAFIN: Verbal abuse.

Q. Do you want to tell us what you said to him?

MARAT SAFIN: No, you don't have to know.

Q. Can you explain why you felt you still had a chance to win when you were down 3-Love?

MARAT SAFIN: Because I had this feeling , because he was playing such a great match - he was focused, he was playing - I just said he was going sometimes for too much, I understand. It worked - down the line, passing shots, serves. You know, he made me unbelievable wide second serve ace. So it's these kind of things.
But you have to really understand tennis to see that. I knew that he will not be able to make it when the score will be 4-3 or 5-3, you know, and he has to finish the match, then will start the problems.
At the beginning of the third set, he was playing great because he was not under pressure. But the problem is, the problems are coming when you have to close the match, then you start to thinking, "What I'm going to do now? If I will not go for too much, you'll give my ball back, it's like long rally. What should I do? Should I go to the net, risk it or not?"
This guy, these kind of things in his head, help me. I just had to stay in the match. I just try to hold my serve. Even I was a break down, he would give me the opportunities to come back. That's what I did.

Q. How was your health coming into this tournament? I know you had health problems earlier this year.

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, I've been injured twice. I came back like three weeks ago in Rotterdam, but I was a little bit out of shape because I had no rhythm ? I didn't play for three weeks. I didn't touch the racquet even.
It's difficult to come back straightaway and try to play your best tennis. It never works. I was like serving for the match against Kafelnikov, couldn't make it. I was a break up in Dubai against Robredo. I lost 7-6 in the third. I was playing great tennis, but I couldn't finish the match, something was missing. So I a little bit lost my confidence.
That's why this first match I was a little bit nervous about my game. That's why I was missing all over the court first set. And the third, I didn't play my best, best tennis. But at the end, I came back and I was playing great. I was quite confident.
When I made a break in the third set, you know, it was 4-2, I made 4-3. You have to put a lot of balls in, just sometimes to go to the net or risk it. If you want to win, you have to risk sometimes, you have to take the risk. You cannot play a hundred percent sure and just win a match. It doesn't work. That's not my style and it's not my game.

Q. Been a couple years now since you beat Pete Sampras in the US Open final. Have you played a match since then that good? Have you played that level since then? A lot, little, not at all?

MARAT SAFIN: Every player on ATP, just in all the other sports, every single player has this kind of day that you will wake up in the morning, whatever you will do, it will be perfect.
Against Pete, it was this kind of a day. Like everything I would do was perfect. I couldn't miss the ball. Even if I will try to miss a ball, I couldn't miss it. I was happy it was exactly this day, like on Sunday against Pete Sampras in finals of the US Open.
To beat Pete like straight sets in the first Grand Slam final, that's really tough. I don't know if it happen again to me. For example, in Australia, I couldn't make it.
But hopefully is not my last final of a Grand Slam. But it definitely will not be the same like against Pete.

Q. So it never really has happened again to you on that level?

MARAT SAFIN: No. I'm still hoping and I'm believing one day it will come.

Q. In that match, you only made like four errors. Isn't it a little bit frustrating to be as young as you are and you're likely never to come to that point again?

MARAT SAFIN: Frustrating? Why frustrating? Why I have to be frustrating? Why?

Q. I don't know.

MARAT SAFIN: You just said it's frustrating, it was frustrating. Why are you saying it's frustrating? What, I look bad? I look like injured, I'm disgusting, playing terrible tennis?
I'm 23 years old. I've been No. 1 in the world. I won a Grand Slam. I was in the final of a Grand Slam. Last year I won Davis Cup, which is not bad. 11 titles. Two or even three Masters Series. Another four finals, I think. It's not so bad. I have a really great career. There's some other kids, you know, same age as me, they couldn't win a Grand Slam, being in a final. So just making -- it doesn't make any sense, frustrating.
Frustrating would be like if I will drop to top 200 and never will be able to come back. I'm still Top 10. Okay, maybe is not my best shape at the beginning of the year because I was injured. But still there is a lot of time coming. You know, is not the end of the world.
And I'm having a great time being here and playing tennis. Is the most important thing.

Q. How close are you do you think to getting back to your game after all the injuries?

MARAT SAFIN: It takes time. It takes really a lot of time. You know, to play great tennis, you need to be perfect. You need to have confidence. The confidence is coming with playing these kind of matches. If you're not been playing really great tennis, you have to struggle, you have to run for two and a half hours all around the court, just run and run. These kind of matches help you to get the confidence back.
Once you get the confidence back, then you can find your game and then you can win a big tournaments. It's how it works. So hopefully it can be this week. If will not be this week, it will be next week. There is always another week.
Hopefully it will come soon because I would like to -- I would like to get my game back really soon so I will be able to fight to be No. 1 in the world. Why not? I'm still there. I'm still young. I can make it.

Q. With the disappointment because of the injuries at the start of this year, have you set yourself any specific target, goal, tournament that you want to win to make up for things?

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, for me I'll be totally satisfied if I would win French Open. That's my goal. Forget about No. 1 in the world. It comes with the tournaments. If you win tournaments, then you can think about No. 1 in the world. Definitely you cannot think about it if you didn't win a tournament this year. I didn't, so I cannot think about this.
I'm thinking about how to get my confidence back and how to win my first tournament of the year. So then I can just get another tournament, another tournament, another tournament, so I can get prepared for the Grand Slam. It's pretty soon. It's like in two months. We're already in the middle of the season. Then you can see what it makes.
But I would love to win French Open. That's my goal.

Q. What about Wimbledon? There are maybe 10 guys left in the world who can serve and volley.

MARAT SAFIN: It doesn't work anymore serve and volley, as you can see, on grass. There is not natural serve and volleyer anymore.

Q. It doesn't work anymore?

MARAT SAFIN: No, because there is no more natural serve and volleyer like Pete, like Edberg, like Becker. There is no more.

Q. You don't think you're a natural serve and volleyer?

MARAT SAFIN: Jesus, that's a really compliment. I'm working on that, but I'm really not. I'm more a baseliner who can finish with a volley.

Q. With a serve like that?

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah. I cannot have it all. I'm working on that, but it takes time. But still I have a few years to improve it.

Q. What about Krajicek, he won Wimbledon serve and volley. He's still hanging around.

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, you can. But in every tournament you need to pass the first rounds. That's what gives you the real confidence. If I will be able to pass the first rounds in Wimbledon, I can adjust my game to the Wimbledon. Definitely, of course, you will not be able to win -- a player like me, I cannot win Wimbledon just staying on the baseline like Lleyton did. Of course, I will have to go to the net and put pressure on the return, try to make it more serve and volley eventually.
But I cannot make it all the time serve and volley. Say I serve twice, I go to the net, sometimes I stay back, go to the net, so the guy is a little bit confused. That's my game.

Q. Wouldn't you put Philippoussis in there?

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, but he doesn't use it. He has great volley, great serve, great motion, but he doesn't use it. I don't know, sometimes he stays on the baseline. He should have go -- he should go for the volley. He has great technique. He has balance. He has perfect serve. You know, he's tall, he's huge, he has long arms, he can do everything. He doesn't use it.

Q. You didn't like a lot of the calls today. Do you think they should use instant replay with the chair umpire?

MARAT SAFIN: No, it's okay. Everybody makes mistakes. That moment you get pissed because you know you want to win, it's not going your way. You know even if the ball is out, they call you in. You just get frustrated, that's it.
You cannot blame the people who are just the linesmens. But sometimes, you know, you should a little bit pay more attention, you know, because it's always a mark.

Q. You're okay with the human element, mistakes?

MARAT SAFIN: Everybody makes mistakes. It can go my way, it can go his way. Today it went a little bit his way. Tomorrow it will be my way.

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