Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Safin leaves Wimbledon a "relieved" and "satisfied" man

Today Marat Safin played his very last match at Wimbledon, as the two-time Grand Slam champion lost his first round match to Jesse Levine 6-2, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.

The former world number 1, who reached the semis at SW19 last year for the first time, had announced earlier this year that this season will be his last and he assured everyone after his match on Tuesday, that he is leaving the tournament a very relieved and satisfied man.

"Is this really it, you and Wimbledon?

Safin: Yeah.

How do you feel?

Safin: Relieved. Pretty much relieved (smiling).


Safin: Yeah."

The temperamental Russian, known for his on-court outbursts and off-court remarks, did not depart the grounds without leaving behind a trademark Safin presser comment:

"Second serve he made an unbelievable pickup volley ‑ unbelievable. So I couldn't expect that coming on a breakpoint in a crucial moment of the match... Because after that the match would go completely the other direction. And also thanks for the guy who made the call. I want to say hello to him. Too bad that he was a little bit too blind today. But anyway, that's tennis. That's tiebreak."

The 29-year-old has had a rollercoaster career where he won the US Open and the Australian Open almost 5 years apart, coping with injuries along the way. Safin however insisted that he has no regrets and has accepted the ups and downs of his tennis career, focusing more on his achievements than his disappointments.

"And be in a semifinal in all four Grand Slams, I think there's not so many of us. Nalbandian, me. I think Hewitt didn't even make it. Roddick. So it makes it special. But thanks to Wimbledon I have this achievement."

"I should probably have won a couple of more, but I'm pretty satisfied with what I did."

Despite Safin's statements during his post-match presser, about how he has no regrets, I can't help but feel some bitterness underneath. Actually that's how he has sounded throughout the season so far. I find his approach towards his very last tennis season very odd. He claims he wants to just have fun, play the events he will miss the most, and with no pressure, yet he has failed to win 2 straight matches since his 3rd round showing at the Australian Open earlier this year. He has let 2 set leads slip away, has lost to opponents he could have easily beaten, and his attitude after his matches always made him look like he doesn't care.

It's true that he is currently at number 24 in the rankings, which is not so bad, but that is only thanks to the 900 points he has from his semifinal showing at Wimbledon last year; points that he will lose after the tournament ends. And the sad part is, Safin did not make use of his ranking which had him seeded in the Grand Slams, and he couldn't make it far in any of his draws, even the ones that seemed fairly reasonable.

His comments during the year about how routine the tennis life is, and how he wanted to retire this year but his career plans have been postponed for 1 more year, are making him sound like he does not value the game, although am sure he does. But it's sad for the fans to see how eager he is to leave this life behind him.

As a true Safin fan, I am urging myself to accept the fact that he is willing to move on and that does not mean he has no love for the game. He just no longer has the passion to win, nor the motivation to help him endure the routine, the practice and all the hard work required from any tennis professional. What we love most about Marat is how unique he is, and despite the inconsistency and the disappointments, we also appreciate how unpredictable he can be.

I think I will choose to ignore this Safin farewell season, and just remember everything incredible he has brought to the game, from his 2000 US Open victory over Pete Sampras, to his epic 2005 Australia Open, where he knocked out Federer and Hewitt to win the title, and finally his surprise run to the 2008 Wimbledon semis, where he toppled Djokovic along the way. Unless something drastic changes for the rest of this season on the Safin front, I shall choose to forget this season ever happened in Marat's career. If he is bidding the circuit goodbye a relieved and satisfied man, then I shall follow the same approach to his retirement. It's just healthier that way, don't you think?!

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