Photo via Spletnik.ru
In the doldrums of the post-Australian Open tennis season, why not take a Marat Safin break?
Marat was interviewed late last last year by Russian HELLO! and photographed hanging out in his Moscow penthouse, where he will be spending more time now that he’s retired. It’s a thrill to see the super-private Safin in his homey habitat. Like any self-respecting bachelor pad there are leather arm chairs, racy artbooks and a telescope (for, you know, looking at the stars.) The interviewer mentions that his tennis trophies are nowhere to be found – hardly a shocker!
Take a look:
The accompanying interview may be of interest to Safin fans. This is my google-assisted translation – you can see the original at Hellorussia.ru. Interview by Irina Popovich.
– You’ve been a free man for almost a month. How does it feel?
– I haven’t realized yet that I’ve finished my tennis career. When you’re engaged in the same business for 25 years, it’s not easy to adjust. Usually at this time, I’ve already gone to Spain, now it’s not necessary for me to rush anywhere. So it’s good, that it’s possible to have a nice breakfast, instead of running off to the gym.
– But Moscow – a city that’s not conducive to rest. . .
– If I didn’t want to do anything, I probably would have chosen a warmer place to live. But I am a patriot of this city, this country, I have here a lot of friends, acquaintances, affairs. I need to move on, grow somewhere, spend my time on something useful.
– Are you going to go somewhere to study?
– Growth in any business requires training. But you must first establish a way of life, then choose a subject/employment, and then you can study it. What sense is it to learn something, if it can’t be useful?
– You ran for the Olympic Committee, but at the last moment withdrew your candidacy – were you afraid that the work would be too boring?
– Maybe I’m revealing a secret, but on the court, too, it’s not too fun. I decided to run for vice president prematurely, now I go to the Council to assist the Russian Olympic Committee. Sport is my life, I’ve led it for 25 years. Here, everything is clear to me – I speak with people in one language. I consider it my duty to give back to sport what it has given to me. I know what needs to be done to make people more involved in health, instead of other things.
– And what are you doing?
– Recently, I attended the opening of a modern sports and fitness complex in Nizhny Novgorod region. Shantsev loves sports, so this region has many regional programs – already built 13 of the 42 such complexes. These are modern multi-functional facilities, where there are basketball courts, playgrounds for mini football, hockey, volleyball, courts and swimming pools – everything your heart desires, in our country is very small. This is the most basic thing that needs to be addressed in order to distract people from the street.
– Your sister Dinara said that she dreams of opening a beauty salon at the end of her career. Do you have any plans “as a hobby”?
– In men, this question is different – you can’t open something as a hobby. If a man undertakes something, it should make a profit. I have some ideas, but it’s too early to speak about them – it will take a lot of effort for it all to come together.
(Note: Yeah, those women and their frivolous concrete plans! – freakyfrites)
– And do you see yourself more as a supervisor or administrator?
– It’s hard to supervise without experience and the necessary knowledge. So first I’ll work as an administrator to understand the whole “kitchen”, and then, hopefully, be able to lead.
– Your mom told me that you started playing tennis without much effort – just picked up a racket. Is that true?
– Actually, I dreamed of becoming a footballer. But my mother worked as a tennis coach. There was no one for her to leave me with, and I found myself on the court. As a child I did not like tennis. But I was playing well and at 14 years old went to Spain. In Russia, it was impossible to engage in sports – there were no facilities, I could not buy myself a tennis racket, or balls. I was very lucky – found a sponsor. The man gave me money and said “play” : It would be foolish not to use it.
– It was probably difficult to be 14 years old in a foreign country?
– First, I lived with a family, and when I first earned money, I moved to a rented apartment. Mom and dad weren’t around, lawlessness! But I myself knew that I needed discipline, as this was my only chance to survive. At first I didn’t speak English or Spanish. In the evening I went to school to engage in the language with adults. I lived then on $60 a month.
It was a stressful situation for you?
– Normal, simply saved on everything. Fortunately in Valencia prices are cheap. My friends spent largely on Coca-Cola, chips, chocolate bars. I had no such temptations – from childhood I was accustomed to eat right and didn’t like those things. But I had the opportunity to travel. We, as normal European teenagers, are going off and vacationing in Italy, in France. Well, I was lucky with the people – all around me was a very warm atmosphere. In Spain, people know how to enjoy life, and do not need much to do it – living space, car, work and relax on weekends. They have fifteen hundred holidays in the year, and during the day they sleep an hour – siesta! Coming together, discussing football, relationships, whatever. And in Moscow at any coffee shop you come from anywhere and hear only talk about business. What kind of life is that?
– And do you need a lot to be happy?
– Three things: to pay utilities, fill the car and simple food. I live alone, I don’t buy junk or go to fancy restaurants. I no longer remember any of the fashionable places. In Moscow there are nice inexpensive restaurants, where people know me, and I’m comfortable being there.
– You have a stunning view from the window, a cozy apartment, it means you value comfort, too?
– To live in comfort, you need to have a goal and to know whether you’re ready to go for it. First you need to honestly admit to yourself what you want, and abandon advance excuses like “this is stopping me” or “this is lacking”. If you have a goal, then half the job is already done. Everything I planned at the start of my career, I realized. But this is a big job with great sacrifices.
– Can you recall the most vivid moments of his career? Maybe it was 1998 when you named the most promising athlete, or 2000 when you won the US Open and became the number one player in the world?
– Life consists of stages. A tennis career does too. In 1998, I more or less played. In 2000, I won something good … time goes by, and in every phase a career is going to be reappraised. Victory at every stage is important in its own way – to compare them is impossible. I won some but not so much – only 15 (tournaments). They’re all important to me.
– But there was also the converse situation, in the final of the Australian Open in 2002 you failed to defeat Swede Johansson, and announced that you had a nervous breakdown ...
– Well, imagine you play constantly, and once a week, you lose. It’s habit, but it is impossible to remain indifferent to defeat. Of course, I never showed mean – not crying, not shut up in the locker room. But for defeat, too, you must prepare and approach it constructively. If the movement does not go up, then you’ve peaked, and you must look for the causes of the “slip”.
– On the court you are very emotional, you still remember Roland Garros in 2004, when, having won the next point vs. Felix Mantilla, you pulled your shorts down. And, of course, all those broken rackets. Such passions are running high just on the court or in life, too, are you an impulsive person?
– In life I am much calmer. I do not like in people stupidity and indecision. When you’re finished explaining something and have to chew it over. Education – it’s great, but if you’re not savvy, you don’t deserve it. To be savvy, you need some street smarts. A mixture of experience and knowledge of survival – the optimal mixture for a businessman in Moscow.
– How do you know the street? From prosperous Valencia?
– Oh come on, we all grew up on the street! Now the children are sitting at home – with video games or chat, and in the 80’s there was no mobile, no internet, color TVs were just appearing. I spent all my childhood in the yard. So I do not get lost. Besides tennis builds great character. On the court you go out alone. This is not hockey, where a crowd is skating, and someone can throw off its jamb.
– What role in your fate played a coach, Peter Lundgren, who also worked with Roger Federer?
– There are very few professionals. I wish I hadn’t met him quite so late. A child can still be instructed, but at 24 years old a playing style has already been formed, you have habits – how you like to train, how to play, and to change something is very difficult. My character is not particularly sweet, so I understand a lot, but can’t do anything – stubbornness is inherent in genetics, all questions for the parents.
– Many of your colleagues admitted that they are very envious of you, because even when you lose, the stands are rooting for you.
– I just played longer. Davydenko, for example, began in 2001. I was already a professional tennis veteran.
– And do you tend to be envious?
– There is always someone who has it better. Exhaust oneself with the silly desire to have a very cool watch, when you have only just earned your first money, time is the same on any watch. I now take off my hat to Roman Abramovich, the man has a modest, comfortable watch.
(Note: Interesting example, considering that billionaire Roman Abramovich recently fathered a child with Marat’s old girlfriend, Dasha Zhukova – freakyfrites)
– After Davydenko’s wedding, you said that you’d get married four years later, when your career ended. . .
– Fourth year just started. The time isn’t up.
– You’re ripe for a serious relationship?
– Hard to say, when not referring to a specific person. I’m not going to seek a bride from an ad.
(Note: Cancel those eharmony subscriptions, girls, and move to Moscow! – freakyfrites)
– What is it lacking in the girls you’ve been with?
– I’ve parted with some because we were too young, with some because we are too different. But almost everyone with whom I’ve had even the slightest relationship, I’ve parted amicably.
– Jealous often, but most had to be jealous?
– Anyone who has loved, is always jealous, after all, it is not possible to be indifferent to a close friend. This is normal, so, unfortunately, yes.
– Your parents are over 60, probably they’re increasingly asking you about grandchildren?
– Of course, they want to. But everything must happen by itself. Sometimes, you go to the restaurant and see a couple: come, sit opposite each other and sit. You see that they have nothing at all between them. Why do it? Marriage should bring joy. I want to be comfortable with a person who is independent – with goals, knowledge, vision of life. The main thing is not to want to break from her. Just sit and watch without trying to fill a pause. To have fun together – this is very rare, actually. I’m not interested in carrying someone on my back.
– You seem pretty clear about what you want.
– Usually, everything works quite differently than expected. I am totally happy with any scenario. In the unpredictable lies all the sweetness of adventure. Life is a great thing, with new knowledge, meetings, feelings, changes. I’m not afraid of anything, and I find everything interesting. You can travel, make friends, visit people. What more do you want? The fact that we can sit, see, speak and cross the road normally – this is happiness! We must appreciate what we have.
– You sound like the survivor of a crash. Where did you get such ideas?
– Many people do not realize that they have everything in life. Nature handed them all that they need. And they complain that they aren’t given money, work and a stay at the resort. What can you say? Well, excuse me, let’s move! I had painful situations, as well as all, but I did not lose heart, I struggled.
– Like that time when you went to the mountains?
– A couple of years ago I was tired and burnt out. Friends gathered for an expedition to the Himalayas, and I asked to go with them. 6 – 7 hours on a plane, and you’re in a completely different world. We ascended to the sixth highest mountain on the planet. I began to work out my situation and realized that 70% of it was the rat race, the remaining 30 percent required a decision. Of course, part of my life may look like a fairy tale – championships, parties, press conferences. But, in fact, it is the same Groundhog Day as for any ordinary person, just different trajectories. He is a “house – traffic – office – shop – home”, and I have “airport – hotel – Court – hotel – airport.” You can go crazy from the lack of emotions. From time to time, you should just sit, walk, eat, and understand that everything will fall into place by itself.
– Do you intend to release a memoir along the lines of Andre Agassi and Monica Seles?
– To write a book, you must be a person of a much larger scale. Okay, I played good tennis. What can I say about that? Also, memoirs need to be written from “under a curtain”.
– On January 27, you will turn 30 years old. How are you going to celebrate?
– All these official celebrations are a very sad story. Everyone attempting to formulate a prettier toast. Someone gives the 25th pair of cuff links, which are useless. Someone will come up, telling tall tales. Instead of a relaxing, I’ll be sweating about who to sit where, so that no one is hurt. And all this for my own money, let me note! I do not blame anybody, all the rest can do as they want, but I do not need this. I can do without cuff links. It would be easy to meet with friends, laugh, drink – really sit. I’m good, I have everything, wish me health, and nothing more.
If you want to wish Marat a belated happy birthday in person, you can check him out this April in Atlantic City. He’ll be playing in the Caesars Tennis Classic with Andy Roddick, Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander. Click here for more info.