Great run, Marat!
Marat Safin of Russia holds the key to the arena as he poses with other players after his final match
The crowd conducted a festive version of the wave and in the end it was Marat Safin who bid a fond farewell to tennis today.
The charismatic three-time BNP Paribas champion played the final singles match of his professional career crossing the finish line in the city where he gained international acclaim in his Grand Slam debut.
The 29-year-old Safin went out in style today, bowing to reigning US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
"This day will stand out in my memory," said Safin. "This is where all of my memories are in one box my wins, my losses, everything. One door is closing for me but hopefully another one is opening. If I can have just 10 per cent of the success I've had in tennis in my next career, I will be satisfied. I've had many tough moments on the court and these will help me in new things."After the match, Safin was treated to a rousing ovation by fans, presented with the key to the Palais Omnisports in Bercy by French Tennis Federation President Jean Gachassin and was greeted by current and former players including former French Open champion Albert Costa, Tommy Robredo, Novak Djokovic, Arnaud Clement, Gilles Simon, Marc Rosset and Cedric Pioline in the on-court ceremony.
A video that included tributes to Safin from World No. 1 Roger Federer, four-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, Fernando Verdasco, Andy Murray, Richard Gasquet and Djokovic played on the big screen inside the stadium. To view the video please click this link.Never one to wallow in sentimentality, Safin was upbeat, candid and funny in his post-match press conference emphasizing he took as much pride in how he treated opponents as he did in winning tournament titles.
"I was a decent player," Safin said. "Just in general, I've been great to everybody, even if I had a few fights with chair umpires."Safin said there was a sense of completing a career circle inside the rectangular court in Paris the City of Light where he first burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old qualifier who stunned Grand Slam champions Andre Agassi and Gustavo Kuerten in succession in thrilling five-set victories at Roland Garros in his Grand Slam debut. Safin reached the fourth round at Roland Garros that year, falling to Frenchman Cedric Pioline in five sets.
"This is where it all started and this where it finishes," said Safin. "There was no better place to do this."
While Safin's entertaining exploits both on and off the court made him one of the sport's most captivating personalities and popular players with opponents, media and fans, he said he has no plans to emulate Agassi and write a tell-all book.
"I'm not writing a book, no chance," Safin said. "All my memories, all my secrets will stay with me." At 6-foot-4 Safin was one of the tallest men to hold the World No. 1 rank
in the Open Era a larger-than-life persona and one of the most charismatic and candid characters to hold the top spot. Safin is arguably the last of a rare breed: a former No. 1 and Grand Slam champion who could combine volatility with virtuosity.
Safin could exhibit a refinement to his game and an edgy rawness in his personality that made him a candid character in an era of champions who sometimes serve as contrived corporate brands.
"I hope there is much more (characters) to come. Because tennis needs somebody not a little bit not crazy but a little bit uncensored," Safin said in an interview prior to the start of the US Open. "They have to come natural. (When I started) it was much more characters (but) it became more business and they tried to be less and less
players like Ivanisevic. It's a circle and I'm sure sooner or later they (characters) will come and tennis will live another nice era."
A philosophical Safin spoke like a man ready and eager to move on to life after tennis. Though he plans to play an exhibition match in January, Safin said he looks forward to leading a life without limits and schedules.
"Now I have no schedule, no practices, no nothing," he said. "I belong to myself. Tomorrow I'll wake up and see what I want to do."
A sampling of some of the tributes to Safin from his fellow players here:
"I have many great memories of Marat. When I think of him I think of an incredible player with incredible potential... (He was) an incredible athlete with an amazing backhand; a little bit crazy. (He was) a very wild personality on and off the court and that's why we love him." Roger Federer.
s a complete ass-clown, but we've come to expect that.
"He's a very interesting guy with a lot of charisma and he brings a lot of excitement both on and off the court so tennis will certainly miss him." Novak Djokovic.
"When Marat was on, he was very tough to beat. He would beat everybody in the world. He always came with something." Radek Stepanek.
"He's always same. He is the kind of person that he has his own personality and he never change. I think that's nice because tennis needs personalties. The guy like him only can get more attention, more people coming to the tennis, more sponsors, more money. If there would be everybody same, then people don't be interested to come to tennis." Dominik Hrbaty.
"He's a really nice guy, great player, showed what he could do especially at the US Open the one year, he tuned me up pretty good. He's an expressive guy on the court, shows emotion. Off the court, he's a happy go lucky guy. I was pretty reserved when I was playing, to myself. For whatever reason, he and I seemed to get on really well. We practiced quite a bit together.You know, he's a champion. He got to No. 1. It's sad to see him go because I think he brought a lot to the sport." Pete Sampras.