Class of 2016
Top Ranking Singles
World No. 1 (2000)
Played for Russia at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games
Member of the Russian Davis Cup Team 1998-2002, 2004-2009
Member of the winning team 2002, 2006
Overall Record: 31-21
Singles Record: 21-15
Doubles Record: 10-6
The men’s professional tennis community often marveled at the brilliant, natural talent Marat Safin brought to the court. At 6-foot-4, the powerfully built Russian could do it all — blast big serves, pound two-handed backhand winners from anywhere on the court, control the net, and dominate a match with an imposing all-court game. When, at age 20, Safin thumped Pete Sampras in straight sets to win the 2000 US Open, Sampras said Safin “was the tennis of the future.”
Boris Becker, a player whose game was built on power, said “that he had not seen anybody hit the ball as hard [as Marat] from both wings for a long, long time.” Even higher praise flowed from four-time Grand Slam champion Jim Courier, who said, "The truth is Marat’s a terrific athlete who can match up with Roger Federer when they're both having their best day on court.”
A Powerful Profile
When the No. 6 seeded Safin convincingly defeated No. 4 seed Sampras, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to win the 2000 US Open, he became the first and only Russian to win the championship. In making quick work of Sampras just one year removed from being a teenager, Safin also made it look easy. His abundance of talent was hard to miss. "Physically, he's so talented,” said Patrick McEnroe. “He is intimidating, just by his physique. He's 6-foot-4, with a monster serve and monster return, which makes it tougher.”
Safin had to overcome a few hurdles to claim his first Grand Slam title. His second and third round matches at Flushing Meadows both went five sets, but he only lost one set in his next four rounds. When he won the championship on a backhand cross court winner, Safin lifted his arms over his head in exalted triumph, a look of both satisfaction and disbelief etched across his face. After congratulating Sampras at the net, Safin knelt down and kissed the court.
Safin’s era on the tour was heavy with talented players. Every single major, not to mention every single ATP Tour event, was a grind. Traversing through draws filled with future Hall of Famers to reach a championship final was an arduous task. Safin more than held his own, winning 15 singles titles and five ATP Masters 1000 tournament titles. At the 2005 Australian Open, the No. 4 seed Safin captured his second major in convincing fashion by defeating No. 3 seed Lleyton Hewitt, 1–6, 6–3, 6–4, 6–4. His march to the final included defeating then world No. 1 Federer in an epic five-set slugfest, 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6, 9-7. Safin also reached the 2002 and 2004 Australian Open finals, losing to Sweden’s Thomas Johansson and Federer respectively. Not surprisingly, all of Safin’s Grand Slam finals were played on hard courts where his game thrived and prospered.
A Family Steeped In Tennis
Safin, who was born in Moscow, had tennis genes flowing throughout his body from the beginning. Both of his parents played and taught tennis and his father managed the Spartek Tennis Club. Safin's sister, Dinara, was a prodigious talent in her own right, and the duo became the first and only brother-sister duo in history to both achieve World No. 1 rankings. Marat held the World No. 1 ranking for a total of nine weeks between November 2000 and April 2001. Dinara earned her World No. 1 ranking on April 20, 2009.
Safin began his professional career at age 17 and won his first ATP title two years later in Boston, defeating Britain’s Greg Rusedski, 6-4, 7-6. He played 13 years on tour, winning 15 titles in 27 opportunities. He was 31-8 at the Australian Open in 10 trips and 22-9 at the US Open in the same number of attempts. He followed his 2000 US Open title with a semifinalist appearance in 2001, where he was beaten by Sampras in three grueling sets. Safin was 26-11 at the French Open, advancing to the 2002 semifinal. By his own admission, grass courts where not his favorite surface, but Safin did have a 16-10 record at Wimbledon, and advanced to the 2008 semifinals before falling to Federer in an entertaining three-set match. Safin compiled a solid 422-267 tour record and earned slightly more than $14 million. He was an integral member of the Russian Davis Cup team for 11 years and in 2002 was instrumental in leading Russia over France for its first Davis Cup victory. In 2006, Safin won the deciding rubber match against Argentina to claim a second title for the Russian team.
Since retiring from the sport, Safin has taken to politics and was elected to the Russian parliament as a member of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in December 2011, representing the Nizhny Novgorod region. He has served on the Russian Olympic Committee and worked with the Russian Tennis Federation.
Australian Open W 2005
French Open SF 2002
Wimbledon SF 2008
US Open W 2000