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Marat Safin

Marat Safin
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Marat Safin (January 27, 1980) is a Tatar former World No. 1 tennis player from Russia. Safin began his professional career in 1997 and held the No. 1 world ranking for 9 weeks in November and December of 2000. He is known for his large physical size, athleticism, controversial antics, and aggressive "power" style of play.
Safin's greatest accomplishments are winning the 2000 US Open and the 2005 Australian Open. He helped lead Russia to Davis Cup victory in 2002 and 2006.
Safin was born in Moscow, USSR (now Russia) to an ethnic Muslim Tatar family. His parents, Rausa Islanova and Mubin Safin, were former tennis players and coaches. His younger sister is a professional tennis player Dinara Safina, and against public belief, his sister is not the singer Alsou Safin, although her brother shares his name and that they are both from Tatar family. Mubin managed the local Spartak Tennis Club where Safin trained in his youth aside several up and coming tennis players, including Anna Kournikova, Elena Dementieva, and Anastasia Myskina. At age fourteen he moved to Valencia, Spain, to access advanced tennis training programs which were not available in Russia. Safin gained the attention of the tennis establishment in 1998 with his consecutive victories over Andre Agassi and (defending champion) Gustavo Kuerten at the French Open. Safin held the No. 1 ATP ranking for 9 weeks during 2000. In that year, he won his first Grand Slam tournament at the US Open, by defeating (then-) 4-time US Open winner and (eventual) 14-time Grand Slam tournament winner Pete Sampras in straight sets. Tennis experts immediately hailed Safin as the new star who would dominate tennis in future years. However, Safin failed to live up to this hype. He suffered a succession of injuries which affected his game and, in 2003, resulted in his missing the majority of the season. Safin has reached the final round in three more Grand Slam tournaments, all in the Australian Open (in 2002, 2004 and 2005). He has cited nervousness as the reason for his loss in the 2002 event, and physical exhaustion for the 2004 loss. He defeated home-country favorite Lleyton Hewitt in the 2005 finals to secure his second Grand Slam in five years. En route to this final, he defeated top-ranked Roger Federer in an epic five-set semi-final match. Safin later described the match as "a brain fight". Safin's win ended Federer's 26-match winning streak over top-10 players, denting the Swiss player's aura of supposed invincibility.
Safin has won five ATP Tennis Masters Series titles during his career. His first was in 2000 when he won the title in Toronto, Canada. He holds a record-tying three (2000, 2002, and 2004) wins in Paris, France, and one in 2004 in Madrid, Spain. In 2004, Safin reached the Semifinal of the Tennis Master's Cup in Houston, but was defeated by Roger Federer, 6-3, 7-6(18). The second-set tiebreak was the third tiebreak of the score 20-18 in the Open Era. After winning the 2005 Australian Open, Safin attributed his recent revival and more consistent performance to the calming presence of his new coach Peter Lundgren, saying that "I never believed in myself before at all, until I started to work with him." Lundgren had been Federer's coach, until parting ways at the end of 2003; Safin hired Lundgren the following year. All the talk about Safin finding his consistency was a false dawn, however, as he was defeated in the early rounds of each of the seven tournaments he played between the Australian Open and the French Open. In June 2005, shortly after his unsuccessful French Open campaign, Safin made a surprise finals appearance at the Wimbledon tune-up tournament in Halle on grass -- admittedly, his least-favorite playing surface. He lost the final narrowly to the defending champion, Roger Federer. Safin notorious among both fans and commentators for his emotional outbursts during matches. He is noted for having smashed numerous rackets and, at the 2004 Roland Garros tournament, he pulled his shorts down to his thighs after winning a point in a second round match against Felix Mantilla.
Marat Safin also helped Russia to its first Davis Cup victory in 2002, with a 3-2 tie-breaking win against France in the final round at the Palais Omnisports Paris Bercy. His Russian team included Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Mikhail Youzhny, Andrei Stoliarov, and team captain Shamil Tarpischev. The team made Davis Cup history by being the second to win the event after losing the doubles tie-breaker, and becoming the first team to win a (live-televised) five-set finals match by coming back from a two-set deficit. Although a serious knee-injury has hampered Safin's progression and rankings within the ATP (he missed the 2005 US Open and 2006 Australian Open), he has since got back-on track with appearances at the 2006 ATP Masters tournaments at Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg. On August 17, 2006, after a disappointing year, Safin temporarily parted ways with coach Peter Lundgren.
On the 2006 US Open, Safin looked like he was back on track as he defeated world's #4 David Nalbandian on the 2nd Round in a 5th Set tiebreaker. However, his run didn't last much longer as on the 4th Round he lost to former world's #2 Tommy Haas, also on a 5th set tiebreaker. Safin's current improvement in form has continued, firstly in September, with an impressive home Davis Cup tie where Russia beat the USA 3-2 to gain a place in the finals in December 2006, and secondly with a good run at the start of the indoor season the Thailand Open where he was narrowly edged out by #7 seed, James Blake. On October 14, 2006, Safin made it to his first final in a year-and-a-half at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, the first all Russian final at that event, losing to Nikolay Davydenko. On December 3, 2006, Safin defeated Jose Acasuso 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in the 5th rubber of the 2006 Davis Cup, winning the cup for Russia. He had previously lost 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to David Nalbandian in his first match. In the doubles match, he teamed with Dmitry Tursunov to win the doubles match against Nalbandian and Agustin Calleri in straight sets.

Grand Slam singles finals

Year Championship Position Opponent Score
2000 U.S. Open Champion Pete Sampras 6-4, 6-3, 6-3
2005 Australian Open Champion Lleyton Hewitt 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
2002 Australian Open Runner-Up Thomas Johansson 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-7
2004 Australian Open Runner-Up Roger Federer 6-7, 4-6, 2-6

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