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Safin Reflects After Final Grand Slam Match; Future A Mystery

New York, U.S.A.

Marat Safin© Getty ImagesMarat Safin won the US Open in 2000.

It started a little slowly, but it didn’t take long for Marat Safin’s dry humour to emerge in his final press conference at the US Open. There was an exodus from the media work room to the interview room when it was announced that the former World No. 1 was on his way after playing his final Grand Slam match, a four-set loss to Jurgen Melzer.

Safin, who will play five more tournaments on the ATP World Tour before retiring at the end of the season, said that he was ready to step out of the spotlight and pursue other interests. “I want to get out a little bit of the tennis scene and try something completely different,” said the Russian, who won the US Open in 2000 and the Australian Open in 2005. “I have plenty of time to think about it. It's been a long ride, so I need some time off. It was a great 12 years of my career.”

So what is in his immediate future? Safin, who in 2007 aborted an attempt to climb Cho-Oyu, the world’s sixth tallest mountain, humorously refused to confirm a comment by Novak Djokovic that he would go mountain climbing in South America. “Djokovic has the breaking news, huh?  I think he should keep his mind into tennis instead of giving up my private life,” Safin said deadpan.

Safin said that with the benefit of hindsight, he may not have announced so early that he planned to retire. Referring to Stefan Edberg’s farewell year, Safin said: “He was getting tired of doing it every week. Bye-bye, bye-bye, and bye-bye again. It's too many questions about what I'm going to do, why I'm retiring, and this and that. So I answer the same question, I don't know, a thousand times. Just go on Google and you have the same answer. Somebody want to hear it one more time. But it's okay. Few tournaments to go, so I can manage.”

Safin, who once quipped that if it weren’t for tennis, he’d be picking up bottles in a Moscow park, said that he appreciated the opportunities the sport provided to him. “It gives you freedom. I worked my way. There wasn't a rich father or rich family that paid for everything that I have right now, so I worked my way. I'm really proud of myself that I really made it, and I made it myself and I'm supporting my family. I help my sister, and everything I achieve is thanks basically to…the sport."

Reflecting on his victory over Pete Sampras in the 2000 US Open final, Safin said that, as a 20 year old, he wasn’t prepared for what was to follow. “This match was just a miracle for me.  I didn't expect anything from this year, because I started 25, I dropped to 45 and then like in three months I was No. 1 in the world. I beat here Sampras, and I really didn't believe I could get anywhere close to the final of a Grand Slam. And then after beating Sampras, I never really understood what happened, [or had] some time to have a chance to think how big this thing really was. It was difficult, because I was also 20 years old. I wasn't ready for this, so it's really difficult to understand it… I wasn't prepared."

Safin added that his second Grand Slam victory - the Australian Open title in 2005, which remains his last tournament win – was even more important that his first. “It was more satisfying, I guess.  It was very important for me to win the second one. I was two times in the finals and couldn't make it. I was very close to semi-finals in French Open that I should have won. Well, just second one was really, really important for me. Thank God I achieved it and everything went smooth.”

Safin also spoke about criticism of his sister, Dinara Safina, who holds the WTA Tour’s No. 1 ranking despite not holding a Grand Slam title.

“Everybody is hard on her why she's No. 1. You have this contest issue, is she a real No. 1 or not?  You open the page, she made eight double faults, 43 unforced errors. She struggled, almost lost to 18 years old. Who cares?  I mean, she's No. 1 in the world.  I have to protect my sister. The poor girl, she's trying her best. She's doing really well.  She gets the attention, but not the kind of attention that a person deserves, especially when you're No. 1 in the world.

“Everybody is giving her hard time about: Are you really No. 1 in the world?  Yes, yes, she's really No. 1 in the world. Go check on the ranking. She didn't do the ranking. Apparently there is some guy who made the ranking. On this ranking, she's No. 1 in the world. Serena, she didn't say even though she won two Grand Slams this year, she's No. 2. Sorry, but that's the way. Deal with that.

"I have to protect her. I feel like she deserves a little bit more than what she's getting right now… you can't imagine how crazy she is about sport.  I don't think there is one person in the world who is more professional than her. Everybody is like hitting on her and giving her a hard time about this, how many, what happened to this serve, what happened this, what happened with that?  Leave her alone.  Give her a little bit less questions.  So it's just all to you guys. Make her happy. That's it.”

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US Open, New York, Marat Safin

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