gettin’ glassy-eyed: marat bows out of beijing

Marat Safin lost to Rafa Nadal 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals of this week’s Beijing Open.

Rafa on Marat: “I am happy for him to have the end the China Open for him like this. So, for the rest, it is important for tennis. Marat is a very important player for tennis, for the fans, so we are going to miss him a lot”

Up next for Safin is a wildcard entry into the Shanghai Masters.

Trophy watch: As a “thank you” for his years of service, the tourney organizers gave Marat a chinese seal carving with his name on it.

(images via Getty Images)

marat safin: no more pressure

World No. 52 Marat Safin is ambling his way to retirement (we’ll be Marat-less after 2009) but don’t let the impending racquet-hanging fool you — the Russian’s game still packs a punch.

The former World No. 1 showed glimpses of his former tennis life by upsetting Fernando Gonzalez in the second round of this week’s China Open. Too bad this good streak is part of his post-retirement outlook.

“It’s easy to play when you have nothing to lose, no points to defend, so you have no pressure at all so you can just play, just go for it.”

And this carefree style was enough to beat Gonzalez.

“I was expecting to win but I’m not surprised that I lost because Marat is a great player and didn’t do too much wrong,” shared the Chilean after the match.

Up next for Marat is Rafa Nadal, who needed three sets to overcome James Blake. Perhaps Rafa’s rustiness coupled with Safin’s worry-free tennis will get him through to the semis?

The duds: adidas did well paying homage to the North American hardcourt season with the light print on this competition crew. We see a blurry image of the NYC skyline. Buy: Men’s Summer Competition Theme Crew, in black, red, and white colorways for $39.99 at TW.

(image via Getty)

ask and you shall receive: marat safin

Mila: this isn’t a picture from Thursday’s practice, but still a recent one of Marat Safin. Here he’s talking to the press after a match at last month’s Los Angeles Tennis Open.

Marat’s swan song sees him without a coach after parting ways with Hernan Gumy (an unnecessary expense for this last year). He keeps to himself and doesn’t have many good friends on the tour. “Everybody walks with five or six people nowadays… [The game] is not as much fun. It’s too professional. Everyone’s hungry for money.”

After Marat serves his last fuzzy ball into the sunset — the final tournament on the schedule is Bercy — the Russian plans to take six months off. After that break, he doesn’t know what’s in store just yet. Safin will just be relieved to be free of competitive tennis: “no more match points, no more deuces, no more second serves.”

The final episode: At the 2009 U.S. Open, Marat opens with a match against Jurgen Melzer and will face either del Potro or Monaco in the second round. If he pulls that one out (not likely, le sigh), there’s a fourth-rounder against Gilles Simon and a quarterfinal against second seed Andy Murray.

(photo by TSF)

in dubai, marat continues to sputter

Writing the epilogue: The unpredictable career of Marat Safin has reached some consistency now that he’s steered himself toward retirement sunset.

At this week’s Barclay’s Dubai Tennis Championships, the eighth seed — bumped up by the absence of the injured Federer (back), Nadal (knee), Davydenko (ankle), Verdasco(ankle), and Roddick (Dubai slapped him in the face).

Too bad he fell in three sets — 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 — to Richard Gasquet.

“I struggled in the beginning with the serve, especially, and returns from the baseline, but I started to get used to it and I started to get better and better,” Safin said. “But unfortunately, it’s a lack of confidence and I didn’t play for a long time after Australia. I played in Marseille, and it’s my second match.”

Meanwhile, after giving his neck a little breather, Marat’s back in business with his charms. Is that the imperial crown?!

Scoreline: Djokovic and Murray are doing just fine in Dubai. We’re expecting these top two seeds to face each other at Sunday’s final.

(photo via Getty Images)

tennis’ George Clooney

Butter is back to weigh in on Marat’s current affairs

Where is my favorite Russian? Hmmm… His body is not into tennis (shoulder injury forced a withdrawal from Madrid, replaced by lucky loser Simone Bolelli), and, as everyone has found out recently, his head isn’t there either:

Instead, he’s been knockin back brewskies with some pretty ruskies, specifically pop singer Nastya Osipova.

What do you think? I almost fell off my chair when I watched this! haha… Is it just me, or do we all miss the Dasha-Marat era? I do! I know Tony Kornheiser does! What about the Silvia-Marat love story? Well, like Marat said before:

“If you date blondes for a long time, you would want a brunette. You have to have variety in life! (laughs). Besides, it really doesn’t matter, it needs to be interesting and not boring.” (Marie Claire Russia, 2007)

So don’t worry, Rich, we might not have to stare at Ms. Osipova’s dresses for too much longer. Who’ll be Marat’s next brunette? Ana Ivanovic?

trophy watch: giant balls, david’s peak, jelena’s hat trick, and changing the russian guard

Another Philipp to watch: Sorry, Herr Kohlschreiber — you’ll have to save some space at the table for qualifier Philipp Petzschner, who nabbed his second career ATP title at the Bank Austria-TennisTrophy when he beat beat Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-4 after taking out Wawrinka, Moya, and Lopez in earlier rounds.

In Stockholm, David Nalbandian performed as expected, winning his second title of the year with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 victory over Robin Soderling. He’ll head into this week’s Mutua Madrilena Masters as the defending champion.

Marat Safin failed to convert his finals appearance in the 2008 Kremlin Cup into a title (this would have been his first since the ’05 Australian). Meanwhile, props to Igor Kunitsyn and his 7-6 (6), 6-7 (4), 6-3 victory over his veteran countryman for his maiden title. He even prepared a speech that congratulated Marat!

Hot potato: The top players of the SEWTA continue to keep us fans on our toes, making sure that whoever holds the No. 1 ranking isn’t the last woman standing at a tournament. In this week’s episode of “The Consistency Caper”, second-ranked Jelena Jankovic downs Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-4 for her fourth title of 2008. Meanwhile, top-ranked Serena is MIA. BTW, this is the third meeting in as many weeks between Jelena and Vera.

(Note: Apparently — see first comment below — this is no longer the case. TSF apologizes for the error. Congrats to victor Jelena, who now has all the spoils.)

It’s in the bag: The flip-flops of Roger Federer (first, he’s out “indefinintely”, next, he’s back on the schedule a week later…) played second fiddle to Rafa Nadal, who received a trophy from the ATP this week in recognition of his No.1 ranking. He’ll pretty much end the year in the top spot barring any missteps.

flashback: tennis masters cup, 2004 (houston)

I was looking for old tennis photos online, and I ran into these pictures taken of the nine guys (including the alternate) who descended upon Houston for the Tennis Masters Cup in 2004.

The Argentines: Guillermo Canas and Gaston Gaudio

The boys: Andy Roddick and Guillermo Coria

The daddies (DILFs?): Lleyton Hewitt and Tim Henman

The ILFs: Marat Safin and Carlos Moya

and Roger Federer

Roger beat Lleyton in straight sets — 6-3, 6-2 — to take his 11th title of 2004 and his second consecutive year-end title.

(photos by Getty Images)

oh, mirka!

Mirka Vavrinec hangs out with besties Gavin Rossdale and the pregnant Gwen Stefani during her boyfriend’s semifinal match against Marat Safin on Friday.

Looking forward: Roger will overcome the mental hurdle that is his losing streak against Rafa Nadal and win his sixth Wimbledon title. This “Roger is over” talk is all bunk.

(photo source)

Finally!

Butter’s Bubble

Marat Safin found his game while playing on his most despised surface — grass! This morning, the big Russian battled Feliciano Lopez, brushing aside his 1-4 record against the Spaniard to win one of his most important matches ever.

During the first set, Safin seemed to be really uneasy playing against Lopez. He (Safin) got frustrated and he was not trying to hide it. He banged his racket on the court a couple of times and hit the ball up high towards the stands. Well, he’s been well-behaved since the first round, so it was about time he showed emotions.

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Thank goodness for that rain delay, which turned things around for Marat. He eventually won 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-3.

This is the Russian’s first appearance in a semifinal at Wimbledon. And it wouldn’t be a great semifinal without facing the guy who’s trying to win his sixth consecutive Wimbledon title: Roger Federer. Are we going to see a sequel as good as the 2005 Australian Open semi? I’m really excited for this match-up, whether or not Marat wins. I’m very happy that his mentality towards the game seems to be improving, including his fitness. I hope to see a five or four setter match.

BTW, these two have played a final before, at the Gerry Weber Open in 2005.

Good Luck Marat! (Sorry, Roger, but I’m for RAFA ALL THE WAY!)

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(images by Getty Images)