Another Marat article-
Safin sound on comeback trail
By Linda Pearce
January 7, 2004
Marat Safin had the passport containing his Australian entry visa stolen two days before he left Moscow, but he still winged it via Frankfurt and Singapore, aware that his journey was at risk of being terminated at any moment. Flying, as ever, by the seat of his pants.
The same Safin whose radical new plan is to try his hardest even when matches are going against him.
The same undisciplined racquet-smashing Russian who has acknowledged his poor attitude but claims to have decided upon the path of dedication and professionalism under Denis Golovanov, his sixth coach in four years.
The same, ridiculously talented Safin, now ranked 77th and soon to turn 24, who has set himself not just for a return to the top 10, but, within 12 months, to the No. 1 ranking that was his after a phenomenal United States Open victory over Pete Sampras in 2000.
The same Safin who lost the 2002 Australian Open to Thomas Johansson, then joked with the media about his busty blonde entourage and beamed when presented with a cake to mark his 22nd birthday.
There is only one Marat Safin, and the game's collective personality has been poorer for his long absence with a wrist injury. He won his most recent tournament match in April, rushed back too early from the ligament tear and effectively missed the second half of the year as a consequence.
After a miserable comeback late in the European indoor season, Safin chose to cut his losses and prepare for 2004.
So here he is, in Perth, and in promising early form, dispatching France's Fabrice Santoro - his long-time nemesis - in straight sets on Monday night to open a new year he vows will be far more positive and successful than the last. Safin conceded that "always you have this fear that you'll not be able to come back".
Yet there was also, apparently, a silver lining. "I had enough time to think about my professional life, and I make some goals to myself - try to be more focused and I'm working on that, and I'm getting much better," he said.
"I decide to come in to play, to come back strong and prepare myself, and I really want to be the No. 1 in the world at the end of this year.
"I made a proper schedule for myself, so basically it has to work - it has to go the way I planned. I really hope that I will be lucky in Australia and I'm really looking forward to doing well. I'm not talking about quarter-finals, semi-finals - I'm talking about finals."
He is also talking about maturity. "I'm growing, I'm getting really older, I'm going to be 24 years old, so basically something has to change because it's been for many years my problem I had. I couldn't really concentrate and I was getting frustrated at some point during the match and I was giving up many times in many matches.
"So I understood, finally understood . . . that it's not the way I should treat myself and suffer on the court getting pissed (off). Because the match is still going and I should at least try. Try and try and if it's not working, it's not a big deal. There's going to be another chance, but at least try."
Injury also has sentenced Lindsay Davenport, another grand slam winner from 2000, to long stretches on the sidelines in recent years. She, too, made a successful return to the court in Perth, the late replacement for Serena Williams leading the US to a 3-0 win over the Czech Republic yesterday.
Having missed more than half of 2002 in knee rehabilitation, Davenport resorted to surgery in mid-October to correct a chronic nerve condition between the toes on her left foot.
Such was her physical frustration, coupled with the appeal of starting a family with husband Jon Leach, that the 27-year-old had even hinted that her most recent Wimbledon visit may be her last.
"Two surgeries in 19 months isn't easy, but I feel like it's something you have to go through sometimes, just trying to hang in there with it," Davenport said after yesterday's 6-4, 6-3 defeat of teenager Barbora Strycova, less than a month after she returned to the practice court.
"I don't know. There's a lot of disappointment and regret that it kind of happened to me - especially my knee when I'd just hit No. 1 again. I'm still out here for a reason. I don't know if it's quite hunger or I just don't want to go out being hurt all the time. I would like to have one really good solid year of being healthy.
"This is my 13th year, so it's closer to the end than the beginning, but certainly when you're not playing for months at a time, your mind starts to wander. But I have no time-frame for anything like that. It could be next month, it could be in two years - I have no idea. (I'm) just focused right now on Australia and getting better. I still feel like I'm many matches away from feeling great, or in the rhythm of playing matches, but it was a great way to start the year."
The most wasted of all days is one without laughter....
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there
Enjoy This Moment!!
HEALTH and HAPPINESS to EVERYONE