Marat Safin I never win Roland Garros, but he has some very nice memories of the Parisian Grand Slam. It was there that he got his first great victory on the circuit, there for 1998, and where he has left moments for history, great parties in a city that in one way or another fits perfectly with the ‘hooligan’ character of the Russian. Marat chatted with Daniela Hantuchova for the official YouTube channel of Roland Garros and he summarized the best moments of his experiences in France, leaving some very funny anecdotes.
And it all begins in 1998, the first experience of the Russian in the second Grand Slam of the year. After passing the previous phase, Marat found a rival in the first round with the very favorite sign hanging on his back: nothing more and nothing less than Andre Agassi, who was already back in the top-10 after his fall to the greatest hells and who wanted to give a hit in Grand Slams. None of that mattered and after five dramatic sets, in a duel in which the Las Vegas Kid made 82 unforced errors and charged his battered shoulder, Safin scored his first major victory.
“For me, Roland Garros is a very special tournament, where my career really started. That’s where I entered the top-100, where I beat Agassi in the first round in 1998 and then Gustavo Kuerten in the second. It is where my career really started. My first turning point was to beat Agassi. I played against him a few months earlier, in the Davis Cup, in Atlanta. He destroyed me very easily, by a triple 6-3, and that for me it was like they hit my ego. Beating him in the first round gave me a lot of confidence. “
Not content with this, that lanky young man born in Moscow measured the defender of the title, one of the best clay court players in the history of tennis: Gustavo Kuerten, no more no less. Again five sets, and again another huge win for Safin. “Against Guga I knew I was going to fight, I knew it was not going to be easy, but having beaten Agassi in the previous round gave me confidence and opened my eyes: It made me realize everything I could do on the track. “
That victory was the cherry on top of a tournament that made him appear in society. Cédric Pioline was in charge of ending his dreams, but his first participation in Paris had resulted in a worthy fourth round, one of the best experiences of his career: “Paris is a special place, and I think this is something that hits the hearts of the players … and not just the hearts of the players. In Paris there is magic” Of course, in that year 1998 Marat was very, very far from enjoying all the luxuries that the French capital offers.
“The first time I went to Paris, in 1998, I stayed in Boulogne and my only food was kebabs. I spent two weeks eating only kebabsI didn’t have much money so I couldn’t afford anything else. As the years went by I was able to earn more money, enjoy more of what Paris offers me, I started to stay in the center of the city. However, it is not the Spaniard who Marat considers to be his toughest rival throughout his career:
“Fabrice Santoro He was the toughest opponent I have ever faced, and not just on the ground. I always lost against him. I lost 9 times and only won 2 (laughs). He is an amazing player, how he reads the game, he is brutal. If you don’t know him, if you don’t have a game plan against him and you’re not physically fit, it makes you nervous. Always know what you are going to do, play with your mindPrecisely against Fabrice came another of his most notorious defeats, in the third round of 2001, in a real war, almost between two chess players, from the bottom of the court.
Finally, Safin referred to what he misses the most about the tournament: “I would like to go back and see my ‘band’, the boys I used to play with. How old they are (laughs), it’s very nice to see them, go eat and be with them. Roland Garros is a very comfortable place to be with them. “