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Safin the showman heads for Beijing
2004-09-04 19:23


Hes wild, wacky and wonderfully talented Marat Safin is guaranteed to keep everyone entertained when he plays in next months China Open in Beijing.

On the court, the man from Moscow is an explosive mix of raw power, brilliant shot-making and racquet-breaking tantrums. Off it, he is witty, unpredictable and often outrageous small wonder that tennis journalists have voted him the most quotable player on tour.

Mad-cap Marat had fans laughing and cheering at this years French Open when he dropped his shorts and bent over to celebrate winning a rally against Felix Mantilla only for the umpire to dock him a point. I felt it was a great point for me, Safin told amused reporters afterwards. I felt like pulling my pants down whats bad about it? Nobody complained. Everybody was OK. It wasnt really bad.

At Wimbledon, the Russian smashed his racquet, raged at the umpire and yelled at himself during his loss to compatriot Dmitry Tursunov and all this while one of his biggest fans, former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, watched from the VIP box.

A Safin post-match press conference can sometimes be more entertaining than the tennis itself. After losing to Nicolas Kiefer at the Tennis Masters Toronto in July this year, Safin was asked if he would consider changing his unconventional approach to the game.

You know the story of the hippo? he responded. The hippo comes to the monkey and says, Listen, Im not a hippo. So, he paints himself like a zebra, but the monkey says, Look at you, youre painted like a zebra but youre still a hippo. So then the hippo says, I want to be a little parrot, and he paints himself like a parrot. He goes back to see the monkey who tells him, Sorry, youre still a hippo.

So in the end, you know, the hippo goes back to the monkey and says, Im happy to be a hippo. This is who I am. So, I have to be who I am and hes happy being a hippo! The story had journalists in stitches.

After one frustrating loss to Max Mirnyi, a reporter asked Safin why he had lost his temper. Do you expect me to smile like an idiot on court? he countered. Nobody likes to lose and I cant be relaxed when I see on the scoreboard that Im loosing and making stupid mistakes. Thats just the way I am.

And thats just how the fans like him. On form, 24-year-old Safin is one of the most talented and exciting players in the world. A physically imposing presence at 6-feet-4, he can serve and volley with the best while still possessing one of the most overwhelming baseline games in the sport.

He demolished Pete Sampras to win the US Open in 2000 and has twice been Australian Open runner-up. He has captured 11 ATP Tour titles so far in an injury-hampered career.

He might get frustrated from time to time, but Safin loves his sport. Of course I enjoy it I have been playing it since I was six, he once said. Its better than cleaning the streets of Moscow! When I talk to myself on court, I say, I love you, youre a good guy, but dont miss next time, OK?

He will be looking to add to his trophy collection when the inaugural China Open is held from September 10-26. The launch of the China Open is great news for professional tennis, he told reporters. We all know that Asia is the fastest growing market for our sport and I am very much looking forward to playing in Beijing.

Safin has already visited the Chinese capital, attending last Novembers official launch press conference with Asian number one Paradorn Srichaphan. The players toured Beijings famous sights, including Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and visited a traditional Chinese opera.

Tournament director of China Open Lincoln Venancio is delighted to have Safin in the tournament line-up. Marat is one of tennis great entertainers, he says. Hes phenomenally talented, hes explosive, hes unpredictable. Marat is going to be a huge hit with the Chinese fans.

And, it is safe to say, a huge hit with the Chinese press. Mainland reporters can expect such gems as, My friend, there is nothing so sexy as a woman who is angry perhaps when she is even throwing things, or, Regaining your form is like trying to find love. If you look too hard, you dont find it. When you let it happen naturally, it comes.

Yet, win or lose, Safin can still smile at himself and make a joke out of his wild-man reputation. After a journalist congratulated him on getting through his opening match of 2002 against Michael Chang without breaking his racquet, he responded: Its my first day on the job give me some time!

The China Open will be held in the 2008 Olympic City at the newly built state-of-art Beijing Tennis Center featuring a 10,000-seat Center Court and an additional 15 match courts. The Tournament includes competitions for ATP and WTA players, ITF junior players in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

The Open aims to become the worlds fifth Major and will be televised nationwide by CCTV for over 150 hours. Ticket sales were launched in late July under very strong demand from fans. Over 600,000 fans are expected to attend this major festival of tennis which also counts with the participation of the ATPs former French Open champions Juan Carlos Ferreroch65292;

Carlos Moya and finalist Guillermo Coria, former US Open champion Marat Safin, top 10 stars David Nalbandian and Rainer Schuettler and Asian number one Paradorn Srichaphan and Dominik Hrbaty, Taylor Dent, Younes El Aynaoui, Hicham Arazi, Sjeng Schalken and many others. The womens field includes Chinas new tennis star Zheng Jie, newly crowned Queen of Wimbledon and Princess of tennis Maria Sharapova, WTA top 10 Kuznetsova, Zvonareva and fourteen-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams and famous Serbia player Jelena Dokic.

: http://www.chinaopen.cn/20040904/n221882412.shtml

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