Marat Safin interview: ‘If Federer and Nadal are still winning something must be seriously wrong with tennis’

Eight years of retirement from tennis and six years working as a Russian MP have finished nothing to dampen the fireplace that has at all times burned inside Marat Safin. At the age of 37 the previous world No 1 is in London this week to play in Champions Tennis on the Royal Albert Hall, which is able to be his first on-court look exterior Asia since he entered politics in 2011.

Put it to Safin that not a lot has modified in tennis since he retired on the finish of 2009 – when Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray occupied the highest 4 locations on the planet rankings – and the previous US Open and Australian Open champion doesn’t sound too impressed.

“If Federer and Nadal are still winning I think there’s something wrong,” Safin mentioned as he sat again in a courtside seat on the Albert Hall earlier than the beginning of play on Thursday. “I don’t see any upcoming superstars today.”

You can see his level. For all of the speak of recent generations breaking by way of, Federer (now aged 36), Nadal (31), Djokovic (30), Murray (30) and Stan Wawrinka (32) have gained 49 of the 51 Grand Slam tournaments which were performed since Safin gained the Australian Open in 2005. Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic have been the one interlopers.

“I’m not saying that our times were the best, but when I was growing up, players were winning ATP tournaments at 16, 17, 18,” Safin mentioned. “Now gamers are solely simply beginning to be execs on the age of 25. I don’t know why that’s.

“Players used to retire by the time they got to 30. At 32 you were a dinosaur. Now you see players who are still running at the age of 38. The upcoming young guys just aren’t at a high enough level. If you can still manage to run at the age of 38 and still be No 1 in the world, it means there must be something wrong with the other players.”

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Safin will return to the court docket in London subsequent week (Getty)

What concerning the younger Russians Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev, who’ve all made important breakthroughs within the final 12 months or two?

“They’re talented, but to go from being a talented player to a top 10 player is like going from here to the moon,” Safin mentioned. “It needs a lot of work and it’s not just about hitting the ball on the court. You have to do work off the court. There’s the psychology, strategy, tactics. They need to work a lot because they have a lot of ups and downs. Rublev, Khachanov – they win one tournament and then they don’t win a match for six months.”

There are some younger gamers Safin admires – he singles out Nick Kyrgios – however the Russian questions how far they could go within the sport. “If you want to be a really good pro you need to be beating Nadal and Federer now,” he mentioned. “Look at Murray and Djokovic. They were beating the top players when they were 19 or 20, but you just don’t see that from the younger players today.”

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Nadal and Federer stay on the very prime of the sport (Getty)

He added: “Federer and Nadal are great players but they’re getting older. No matter how much you work in the gym, it becomes harder and harder to recover match after match. Age catches up with you.”

Safin, who will play his opening match in opposition to Xavier Malisse on Friday, seems in good condition contemplating the years he spent away from tennis. He has been working more durable on his health since stepping down as an MP this summer season and just lately frolicked coaching with his sister, Dinara Safina, one other former world No 1, in Monte Carlo.

“We decided to do fitness and tennis together, just like the good old days,” Safin mentioned. “We wanted to see how long we could manage that. We did 10 days and it was fun. It was basically meditation – concentrating on what you were doing but only on that. Because otherwise you have too many thoughts in the head and it gets tiring.”

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Safin has spent extra time away from the court docket lately (AFP)

After Safin was elected to the Duma as a consultant of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia get together in 2011, virtually the one time he discovered for tennis was when he performed within the International Premier Tennis League in Asia.

“I took some years off tennis because I got a bit burned-out in the head,” Safin mentioned. “I had an excessive amount of tennis in my life so I made a decision to stop a bit bit. Now, slowly, I’m beginning to get pleasure from it once more. It lets you preserve your physique in good condition. As you become older that’s vital. 

“I let myself go a bit. A couple of years ago I was a bit overweight. In my job I was sitting down all the time and I had no time to do any exercise. But then I started to play ice hockey twice a week and I also started running every day.”

Safin is hoping to play extra tennis subsequent 12 months and would finally like to teach, although he insists he’s not prepared for that but.

“I also want to start my own business, but not in tennis,” he added. “I’ve got some thoughts about that and I’m getting some people together and then we’ll start. I couldn’t do it while I was a government official. Now my hands are freer. That’s why I want to travel, play tennis and do business.”

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The former world primary is aiming to play extra tennis in 2018 (AFP)

What was one of the best a part of being an MP? “I liked having to think outside of the box,” he mentioned. “Once you’ve been a tennis player, to then dedicate yourself to a completely different profession, especially working as a government official, that’s a big change. I took a chance and I’m happy about it. I know how the system works. I got so much information and knowledge that I would not have got from anyone else.”

Did tennis assist to arrange him for all times as an MP? “Yes, because it gives you mental toughness,” Safin mentioned. “It’s very important to start to think from scratch. If you’ve been a ‘superstar’ tennis player and you start to do something else and you think you’re still a tennis player, you’re in big trouble. You need to take your ego away and start from zero.”

Champions Tennis on the Royal Albert Hall continues till Sunday three December


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