Have not heard about you in a while – and then BOOM! And “the hot water is running”. Sublime commentary! Trying to explain thnigs to the audience in very simple terms! Unfortunately, i am not a professional comedian When you walked into court to play against him – did you feel nervous? Coach told me “can you lose in at least three sets?” I told him in explicit terms – “are you f**king crazy?” Ahead of US Open, Medvedev was often described as a “bad boy” by the press. He’s a bad boy? Come on – he’s a charmer! Bad boys look entirely different! Says Marat Safin who knows all about it! Nah, i am a charmer too! Hi, guys! I am Marat Safin – and you are watching “Raw Take”! Hello, my dear viewers and listeners of the Raw Take! Emotions about the recent US Open Final are still running high And nobody has any doubts – Danila Medvedev is a true hero! But that night brought out another hero! And you have guessed correctly – Today i am joined by an ex-tennis player. A true legend of the game! The one, the only, the great Marat Safin! C’MON!!!! Marat, thank you so much for joining us after one hell of a long night! And i meant to ask you – where have you been all this time? Have not heard about you in a while – and then BOOM! And “the hot water is running”. Sublime commentary! Well, it has turned out to be quite fun indeed! I quit the Russian Parliament about two years ago and began sorting my life out. Traveled a lot. Some things happened in my life – which forced me to change my focus onto other things. So i happened to be in Moscow, although having been spending most of my time in Europe And Channel One gave me a call. I hope that commentary was fun! Many people wrote after that live broadcast that you need to be awarded with the top prize for that commentary! Vasya Konov tweeted that it was a pity award applications had ended already, because your commentary was worthy of it! Did you even expect that people would love it so much? Well, thank you! I didn’t expect it. People started texting me in the morning – and i didn’t know what was going on. I think people genuinely love fun commentary. Of course, there are those who don’t – but that is their problem. No use in giving me grief. I did it sincerely, and as a fan – as i am not a professional commentator. It is, after all, sports. And it requires a slightly different approach! It requires a different type of humor. So no use in looking for difficult phrases and words! So i tried to do it in the way that i see sports and would talk about it. There are other subjects which require other language, but this was about sport. Trying to explain thnigs to the audience in very simple terms! So that people understand the things which i see And, i guess, the reception has been good. Many things have become clearer! And i even said – im sorry if someone did not understand me! I was trying to explain very simple things. And no need to over-complicate it all. It was a straightforward sports show. No double-meanings at all. No need to analyze me. We’ve got a lot of people who think they are intellectuals! Everyone has an advice to give. I understand that and am calm about it. But i am happy that it has been received mostly well. I know it is stupid to compare 4,5 hours on the court and 4,5 hours of commentating on a match – but was it hard? It is an experience for me. A genuine experience! They called me 3,5 hours prior to the match and asked me if i could do it. I decided to give it a try! I didn’t prepare for it, nobody helped me nor instructed what i should and should not be saying. I simply watched the game and described what i saw. With a simple and understandable language. Again – no need for complicated words or analysis. And i think that people who love tennis understood well what i was talking about After all, this was a tennis match – not UFC or basketball – which are different things to me. And this was tennis. Which used to be a number one sport in Russia during Yeltsin’s reign. The tennis boom happened thanks to him. And children went to tennis schools thanks to him! Kafelnikov started playing, i started playing, girls did too. Now there is a new generation of players. Medvedev, Khachanov, Rublev. And girls too – although i can’t say i know them well enough. And this is a new generation – which was not born in the Soviet Union. I call them “the gadgets generation”. They have a totally different view on sport and reality And that is why our society is a bit split there days – the Soviet people and the post-Soviet people. We are living on the same land – but sometimes fail to understand one another But the approach and world views are totally different now. You speak to children today – and they speak almost like a new language! And if adults are unable to speak the same language with the new generation – it won’t be good for all. This generation has grown up in a different country – Russia is not USSR. And we have to understand that! But we are not paying attention to that – and wonder what’s going on and how we should talk to our children. They are much more open and they love to express themselves. I walk the streets and see that the children are dressed as they want and they do what they want. By no means does it mean that this is anarchy. They are incredibly talented people – in their spheres. They have views and opinions – and they are ready to fight for them! Which is very important Not like before – when we were all just a gray mass. Those few times we went abroad – we looked at people outside of Russia as if they were something incredible. Or aliens. They dressed well, looked well, were well-fed. And we came there hungry! Today’s freedoms are incredible! But again – doesn’t mean it is all anarchy. We just need to learn how to talk to the “gadgets generation”. Well, you’ve done just that – in your commentating! Someone – probably Dima Egorov – tweeted that “now i know why Yeltsin drank so much!” – during the match! Because the match was so intense! Did you have moments when you wanted to swear on live TV – because of how intense the match was? Hey, i am an adequate man and will be forty soon. I knew where i was. I’ve met different people over my life – from presidents to street cleaners! That’s why i knew exactly where i was and what kind of work i was doing! I don’t think i would’ve swore on live TV. Although some might think i was on the brink of doing just that. Exactly – i thought a couple of times that you were close! Well, see – it seemed that way. But i knew that i was live on Channel One. I understand that some of the older generation were a bit skeptical of my commentary. But overall – i did it very sincerely. I don’t need to show off or prove anything to anyone. I’ve reached a stage in my life where i don’t care much about the public’s opinion. You like it or you don’t! It was a one-time experience – and i hope that some people liked it! But did you enjoy it? It was interesting. Because – again – i did it as a fan. In a way, as an older comrade of Daniil Medvedev. I mingle with Khachanov and Rublev. I understand them well. And i am a sincere fan of what they do. There won’t be hard feelings from me if they win more than us! Moreover, i am confident they will become better than us and win more than me and Kafelnikov! It changes the situation – you want to give Medvedev an advice, but you are not there! And i see tennis a bit deeper than him. Simply because im a tad bit older! That’s why some things were glaringly obvious during the live match commentary. When he had a chance to finish off Nadal – see, i am again using a sports term “finish off” – because Nadal was on the ropes. And i am using a sports language again here! You told Sport24 after the show that you were not even considering a permanent commentator’s gig. But if you were, hypothetically, launching a tennis show – “Marat Safin and…”. Who would that be? Kafelnikov?? I am not considering this because, fortunately, i have things to do in my life! I have my path, i know where i want to go and what i want in the future for myself. Won’t really call this “plans” or elaborate on them. As they say, “you want to make God laugh – tell your plans!” But i have a clear vision of my future. Where i want to be! And where i have more chances to fulfill my potential – not in a funny way, surely Unfortunately, i am not a professional comedian So i am grateful for this experience, but if i do it often – it will become a routine. So if they call you again – you wont’ go? I think i won’t go. Because this requires professional training. And i would like to apply my knowledge elsewhere. And i have enough of it – for my 40 years. Despite some people claiming otherwise, which i don’t care about. I would love for as many people in the world as possible to live through the same experiences that i have! But just purely hypothetically – if you were making a weekly show, who would’ve you wanted as your sidekick? Maybe, again, Kafelnikov? Or your sister? Imagine how cool it could’ve been if you partnered with your sister! Like a family business! And you got a lot to talk about! We have plenty to talk about outside of any shows! I think this needs to be left for the people who love tennis and are fully engaged with tennis. Unfortunately, i have left tennis. I’ve gone for good. I am not watching tennis, i am not following results. I don’t even have Danila Medvedev’s phone number! I don’t know how’s everyone playing, don’t know the ratings. I’ve only found out the ratings just before the live commentary! I’ve had to google things before the show. I’ve been completely out of tennis! Why have you fallen out of love with tennis? I haven’t fallen out of love, but to me it was just a stage. I do not see my life a one solid stage. A life can consist of several mini-lives, so to speak. I like to collect experience, not being stuck in an experience! You can say that i am collecting experiences in different things. Because the only thing which is left after we die – is our experience! Definetely not money – as some think and are trying to gather as much as possible. Which is stupid! Would you want to waste your life earning money – to decorate your coffin with 100-dollar bills? That is dumb. Now i want to talk about the US Open Final match itself. Certainly, you had so many good quotes during the commentary – which have now had articles written about them! Sports.Ru came up with one for sure Is Nadal really old, as you said then? Well, that is something you can say during a sports commentary. Meaning he’s not old at 33, but that the new generation is stepping on his heels. Players like Medveded, Khachanov, Thiem, Tsitsipas, Zverev – all these boys are here already! And it’s growing harder and harder for Nadal. Because people have studied his style of tennis. And the pressure’s on him – because for a senior player it always feels painful to lose to a younger one! So the combination of these factors generates an advantage to the young players, not Nadal. So this makes him nervous – as we witnessed in the match against Medvedev! Medvedev came back from losing two sets – to almost winning the match! But it is natural – it takes a lot to be able to play well at 33 after 18 years spent in the game. But why was he victorious in the final? Because of his vast experience – or the lack of it with Medvedev? It is indeed all about experience. Because a match can be decided by just a few points. Medvedev had a chance to break at the beginning of the 5th set. But he did not take it. He had to kill off that game episode – and take the match to a win. It’s like in football – if you don’t score, then you’ll be scored against. It is the same in all of sports! Medvedev did not have the experience on how you do just that. Or maybe he thought he won it already. He calmed down and felt the smell of blood – and i am again using sports cliches! That is when you feel that your opponent is there for the taking. And that is the most dangerous situation. Because if you bring your opponent back to life – you won’t stop him! Because in such case his confidence grows and he starts believing in his own self. He clings to one or two important points and that changes the whole situation. Which happened in that final. Ahead of US Open, Medvedev was often described as a “bad boy” by the press. That he was surrounded by controversy. He’s a bad boy? Come on – he’s a charmer! You look at him and you see that! He’s a sweetheart! Bad boys look entirely different! Says Marat Safin who knows all about it! Nah, i am a charmer too! You also need experience in interaction with the crowd. And this is all new to him! Because his first big results came only in Cincinnati And he was talked about as “the future of tennis” only after Cincinnati Before that, he was “one of”, but after that he became “the best of”. Safe to say, he’s at the top of the “young tennis players” chart. If we go beyond Jokovic, Federer and Nadal – Medvedev is next in line! Followed by Tsitsipas, Khachanov, Zverev and others So he’s the first among his compatriots. And he needs to understand how to live with it. How to handle oneself, how to behave and how to work the audience. It is also very important! You can turn the audience against you. And you can also troll it and have fun with it – which is natural. If you put your soul into it and not try to overplay it – the audience will accept you. And if you show off to get some hype and act unnatural – the audience will immediately see this. It is easy to see when players are being fake. But people love the soul! Its normal Is that why they loved him by the end of the match? Because it was the other way around in the beginning. Yeah, he probably didn’t understand that at first. But i did not see – my TV is always off at home. And then he started finding his own self on the court. Who i am on the court and how the people should receive me. Again, it’s perfectly normal. He’s only 23 and literally just started showing big results. For him, many things have changed recently. And we have to understand that. He’ll find himself. It is an experience. We all spend our lives looking for ourselves. Has anyone really found oneself? To the godly level? Well, if there was someone like that – people would follow. But I have not seen such people – anywhere in the world. I watched the final and I noticed that the audience changed its vibe towards Medvedev as the match progressed. In the first two sets, they did not show any reaction to points won by him. But closer to the fourth set, they were chanting Medvedev’s name! Have you had situations like that? When the audience warms towards you inside one match? I sure did. Especially when I was being naughty in the early stages of a match. But hey – we are all living people. We cannot be at our maximum and cannot be good all the time. We’ve all got our own problems. We’ve got families. We’ve all got life situations which affect your game and attitude towards the audience. But again – we are all people. There’s no such thing as men of steel. And we have to understand that. If you put your soul into the game and do everything sincerely, the audience will understand you and will never hate you! At the beginning of the match, people were indeed treating Medvedev as if he did something wrong before. I don’t really know what that was – and I wont judge. Because it is never a good thing. But then the audience began to realize that he was a good guy. That he was putting his soul into it. That he was playing well and fighting for it. That he was not being a prick. That he was not acting weirdly. That he was a fighter! And when he earned himself a chance in the match, when the audience saw he was a fighter and playing with the soul – it warmed. At 2-0 down on sets, and 4-2 down in a third set – the majority of players would’ve given up. And he didn’t. He fought! And people loved that! Because people generally love fighters. So he went on a roll and people took to him. He fought, won games and sets and played beautiful tennis. He ran and ran and ran, fought and fought and fought. And people love that – in any sport! Another metaphysical observation, so to speak. Closer to the end, Nadal was reacting wildly to every point won. Interacting with the crowd. At the same time, Daniil looked absolutely calm. Is that because he is not emotional – or was he a bit scared or nervous? I think that is just the way he is. He is a calm guy. He was playing calmly all game. And it was all written on his face. Maybe inside he was exploding. But he never showed it on his face. At the same time, Nadal needed support. He understood that he was running out of resources and he needed some external help. So he went looking for it. He encouraged himself, encouraged the audience – just to get energy from somewhere. To make his blood boil. Yes, to change the situation somehow. He’s mastered that art. Something our players need to learn to do as well. Because the audience can give you a major boost. If you are getting a bonus, you need to know how to use it to your advantage. And Nadal plays that card so well. So do you think Daniil should have been more emotional? But you need to be able to work with that. Because you can rile yourself up into such an emotional state, that you won’t be able to pick yourself up. And it’s dangerous – because you can lose focus. If you get too emotional, you will eventually lose concentration. Is there anything you would like to say to Daniil? Any message for him? Just be yourself. And don’t listen to all these experts who shall pop out of nowhere now and tell him how genius he is. Well, he is a genius. But he needs to understand who is being sincere about him and who is just a parasite. It is very important in the early days of one’s career to distinguish who is who. He clearly has a great coach. His girlfriend supports him. So keep it that way! There will be people around who he will need in his life. And distinguishing who is who – that’s important. Because 99% of the people around will be a nuisance. And only 1% will be sincere. The majority will simply try to ride on him. And I don’t want that to happen to him. He does not deserve it. Recalling your US Open final. You also played against a living legend of the game – Pete Sampras. Were you nervous when you walked out into the court? Because you felt this was the fight you cannot win? Because many were convinced that Daniil would never beat Nadal – before the match started. See, this is the old generation’s approach – that we are worse than the others, by default. Subconsciously. And they would never admit that they are always negative too. But in reality they are moaning all the time. We are going to lose, everything is sad and gloomy. Everything is only negative. Everyone’s against us. What the hell? This kind of mentality crawls under people’s skins – that we are second-grade humans. Who said that and why? So you’re implying that you went out back then to beat Sampras? You were not moaning? No, I was not. My coach at the time, Alexander Volkov, was also from the older generation. And he was afraid of everything. He was telling me I would lose. He was telling me that I was underperforming at training. He is a good man, with good views, but he has too many fears. He told me “can you lose in at least three sets?” I told him in explicit terms – “are you f**king crazy?” I felt that I had a chance against him. Because I beat him in Montreal just three weeks prior to that. Or Toronto. So I was not going out there to lose. And I told him not to mess with my head and bugger off. So yes – I was not going to lose that, and I knew that I had a chance. And I did not want to be told otherwise. Which match was harder – against Sampras or Hewitt in 2005? Hewitt. Because I felt I had an obligation to win. Although I didn’t really have any obligations. I had two bad finals – one with Johansson. But i had a situation there people did not know of. Everyone is quick to judge – not knowing what’s going on in a person’s life. Only you can know what’s going on and criticize or praise oneself. Other people just cannot do that! Because they have no clue as to what happens inside of you. I had certain things going on – so i simply could not win that match! I wanted to, but i could not. Then i lost to Federer having returned from injury. So i had to win the 3rd. I didn’t want to win just one Grand Slam in my career. I needed the second. So i was under huge pressure. When i walked out, my feet felt numb. I couldn’t even run properly. Was so nervous. But found myself later – lifted the weight off my shoulders a bit. But i did not really enjoy that. It was the type of win you survive through. So i wouldn’t wish a final like that to anyone. No pleasure, just struggle. Meaning you enjoyed winning the US Open? Of course. Nobody expected anything of me. I was young – just 20 years old. Playing on US soil. Playing against Sampras. Losing that playing against a top player? No issues. If i were to lose it, i wanted to at least show the fight. People paid big money to see that. So when you see it like that – like an important experience – you are able to do interesting things. But we’ve been taught – be serious all the time, never smile. Nah, that’s not for me. Just enjoy it, play and live! Life is a play and we are all actors in it! Treat it like that – and the universe will help you. The more self-irony and humor you have, the more the universe will help you. As simple as that! Medvedev has become the first Russian to reach a US Open Final since you did that in 2000. You won it back then. Daniil was not too lucky against Nadal. Has our tennis returned? I think so. A new generation of good young players is here. They were born between 1993 and 1996. They are the people who have grown up in a different system. They will be calmer about certain situations and matches than myself and Kafelnikov. We grew up in the Soviet Union. And when we went abroad to play, we used pins to hold our shorts. And everyone laughed at our shoes. Regardless of how well you played, you were always looked down on. And that affected us. And we were also told – look at how THEY play. And you lot cannot play, you are all bad. They point to Italians and the French – at how much better they are than us. But you realize that they are not. Just because they are dressed better than us, one thinks that they play better than us. These notions are put into the heads of children by the people who have problems of their own. And that damages children. If you denigrate them and slag them off at sport, this will transcend into their everyday life. Those things stay in their heads. And how are they supposed to live with this? If you tell children they are dumb, they will think that they are dumb. There are many examples of that. And unfortunately i’ve seen a lot of that. And all that comes from our Soviet past. I’ve experienced this type of horrible attitude on myself. You cannot do that! You cannot treat children the way coaches and teachers treated them. So these children of the new generation are lucky in a certain way? Yes, they are. Because life here has changed. I was born in 1980. And some may say – you’ve seen nothing. But i have. Collected bottles and stood in lines to buy food. I remember when there was nothing to eat. I remember when people stood 3 hours in a line to McDonalds. To eat a hamburger, which is idiotic! And then we say “what a great country it was”. Of course it was great, but at the same time our people suffered. We had toothpaste, but we didn’t have toilet paper. Used old newspapers instead. Children won’t remember that, but we do. Left an impact on our minds. Communal flats and many other things. No TV sets in our homes. Or the ones with DIY antenna. When you started winning and earning money, did this rough childhood many of us lived through bite you in the ass? Did you feel overwhelmed by all the big money? Of course. I won’t lie or deny – it did happen to me. When you had nothing and then had everything at such a young age – of course you would lose your head. The main thing is not lose it too far – and being able to find it and piece it together. But you managed to do that? I lost it and found it, then lost it again. It was like a cycle A vicious cycle. Yeah, in a way. Unitl certain things happened in my life which changed my views and attitudes. There’s no such thing as negative experience. There is a bad attitude to a situation. And every situation gives you a lesson. Every situation teaches us. And if we fail to learn – it will repeat itself, just with other people and other things. And until you learn that lesson – what the universe is trying to tell you – you will be walking in circles. You need to look inside and speak to your own self. Admit certain things – that you are not perfect. Because many think they are ideal. That they are just perfect, while other people are crap. All the things which make you mad actually live inside of you. You just need to look inside and work on them. And very few are ready to do that. Because people are afraid to look at themselves. Because they think they are perfect. Coming back to the old tennis… Sorry, i switched the topic Don’t worry, it’s all very interesting! When you and Kafelnikov started winning – and this was sport number one in Russia, supported by the president Did you feel the weight of responsibility – that you were spearheading sport number one in the country? Honestly, i can only speak for myself. Don’t know about Kafelnikov. I left the country at 12. Went to the US, but failed to get into Bollettieri’s Academy – where Kournikova was. So i went to Spain to train, aged 13. I was sponsored by a guy from Switzerland. Russia did not give me a single penny. Not one. I reprezented Russia just because i am a patriot of my homeland. You can live anywhere and be a patriot of your country. You don’t have to live in a country and be its patriot. It’s quite moronic to think otherwise. Its false. I played for my country, but was not supported by it. I saw Yeltsin 2-3 times in my life. I felt massive respect to him, to his wife and the whole family. But i played for the country – not the president. And i can repeat – the country invested zero into my development as an athlete. So this was pure enthusiasm. That’s why i didn’t feel any extra-pressure. Certainly, i felt privileged to represent my country – but no pressure. Because i had no Russian sponsors. Only one – some website which paid me pennies. But it was quickly over. I played the Davis Cup for free. I played the Kremlin Cup for free. I paid my dues, for sure. Despite that i was offered 200 grand to play in Sweden that week. And i gave up 200 thousand dollars – to play for free in Russia. Do you think the boys and girls of today have a different situation? I think they will have some sponsors. Our country has grown and there’s more business now. Not like before – when we had just a few of those. And all that was murky with shady people. So we were never sure what we would be getting into – advertising some shady things, which was dangerous. So i think there will be companies now which will try to sponsor our tennis players. Just like my friends – who are sponsoring Khabib. So yes – the situation is changing. Do you feel a little bit jealous of the new generation – being the child of the 1990s? By no means. I am thankful that i lived through those times – and those were unique. The times when we had to collect scrap and had no TV – or the one which never worked. We would see an hour of Roland Garros – with bad picture and interference. We had nothing! And now we are surrounded by gadgets. WiFi is everywhere – which was unthinkable before! Phones were huge! I saw all this technology when it was only born – the internet with ADSL connections and screeching sounds. And today people go nuts if WiFi doesnt work. To live through all that and witness such a leap – i can only thank the God that i was lucky to do so. Do you mingle with Kafelnikov these days? Or not so much? You are supporting one football team, after all. I saw he had a fight with someone! He does that all the time! Well, they all actually like each other! But they still like to fight at times. We are different. And we live different lives – i got my things, he’s got his. I dont play golf, for instance. But we text each other occasionally. He texted me during the US Open final. So that’s that. We never go to dinner together, or anything like it. But i do have respect for him. And we lived through invaluable experience – playing for Russia. But even when we played together, we almost never dined out. Twice in 10 years. Which is silly. Where’s your sister now? I think she is in Monaco now. Or maybe here already. We also live our own lives. She left tennis too? No, she wants to train. And is looking for an opportunity to do so She wants to work in tennis. I hope she manages to do that Many have written that Medvedev might have ressurected tennis as a number one sport in Russia – or at least that there will be more attention to it. People like cliches. But they talked about male tennis. What about female tennis? Sharapova, for instance, is on a visible decline. Sharapova and Kuznetsova are both over 30 years of age. And they’ve been playin for 15 years now. They have reached the age when being on tour is becoming harder and harder psychologically. They have money and want a different life. Very little motivation. They want comfortable life and travelling all the time is becoming hard. They want families, which is understandable too. That’s why they are gradually paving way for the younger generation. And even if there are not too many now – they will appear eventually. Just like not long ago we did not hear of Khachanov or Medvedev – and yet they appeared. The same thing will happen with the girls. Like a new wave. So in this case boys are ahead a bit? Well, you can jinx it – and the girls soon break away. Well, that would be good too – as long as they are all winning! Marat, thank you very much for your time, your honesty and your responses! And i hope that we will see your own tennis show soon – regardless who you host it with, Kafelnikov or your sister! Thank you!