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Marat Safina Says • Zverev Is The One!

Germany’s Alexander Zverev reacts after winning a crucial point against Jack Sock of the USA during their Round Robin match at the ATP World tennis finals in London, Britain, 16 November 2017. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN

 

 

Alexander Zverev’s explosive baseline aggression, towering presence, jolting two-handed backhand and occasional racquet-smashing hijinks evoke comparisons to a young Marat Safin.

 

Alexander Zverev of Germany holds the winners trophy after he won over Roger Federer of Switzerland during the ATP Rogers cup men’s final in Montreal, Canada, 13 August 2017. EPA/ANDRE PICHETTE

The 20-year-old German won five titles, including Masters crowns in Rome and Montreal, to finish the season ranked No. 4.

 

Zverev’s style and success has earned the support of Safin, who swept Pete Sampras to win the US Open at age 20.

 

The Hall of Famer told Sky Sports he believes Zverev will be the next young player to break through to the top of the sport.

 

“For me, Zverev, I think,” said Safin, who is playing this week’s ATP Champions Tour event at the Royal Albert Hall. “Plus he has a good coach, [Juan Carlos] Ferrero. He was a good player and has done good work with him.

 

“He is number four in the world, so he can manage, so let’s see. The rest [of the young stars], we’ll wait for next year.”

 

Alexander Zverev of Germany in action against Jack Sock of the USA during their Round Robin match at the ATP World tennis finals in London, Britain, 16 November 2017. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN

Zverev added former world No. 1 Ferrero to his coaching team midway through the season, joining his parents, father and former ATP pro Alexander and mother Irina, who taught him his strokes, and fitness trainer Jez Green, who previously worked with Andy Murray.

 

The 37-year-old Safin said when it comes to coaching, he’s an individualist and not a big believer in today’s trend of hiring former champions as coaches.

 

“I’m not following the trends of the people, I think we should go the opposite way,” Safin told Sportel TV. “When everybody goes the one way, you should go the other way—that’s my opinion.”

 

Safin was actually ahead of the coaching curve. The mercurial Moscow-born baseliner briefly worked with former world No. 1 Mats Wilander as coach in what Safin calls a failed experiment.

 

“Well, I traveled with Wilander for some weeks, it didn’t work for me,” Safin said. “Even though it was interesting. But I think for them it’s helping them on a certain level, but I don’t know on what level it helps them, but still I think it makes sense (for them). I’m not there yet.”

 

Safin suggests a key to a successful player-coach dynamic is the player must be receptive to coaching and be “normal…in the head.”

 

“It depends who is the person? Who are the parents? Who is the kid?” Safin said. “If you want to help somebody, you want to help somebody who is normal…in the head. With a normal family, with a normal background. You don’t want to help with the people who are not there yet to be helped.”

 

Coaching runs deep in Safin’s family DNA. Mother Rausa Islanova coached both Marat and sister Dinara Safina, who share a record that may never be broken as the only brother and sister tandem in history to rise to world No. 1.

 

Since her retirement, Dinara Safina has dabbled in coaching. Safin suggested he may launch his coaching career—or perhaps future Davis Cup captaincy—when the gray hair starts to sprout.

 

“Maybe in the future, yeah, I’m getting a little bit older,” Safin said. “Gray hair, I look smart, I look more sophisticated and then I start to coach. Because now they would never listen to me.”

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