World tennis is poorer today with the mercurial Russian Marat Safin deciding to call it quits from professional tennis. That the number of his titles do not do justice to his exceptional talent would be an understatement. The youngest world no. 1 till date was labelled "tennis of the future" by none other than the then greatest himself- Pete Sampras.
"But why so soon??" is the agonising question that legions of his fans can't stop asking, which also is very true considering others atletes like Sachin Tendulkar who were born a around decade before him continue to hang around even after suffering from something as ridiculous as 'tennis' elbow, lets overlook Martina Navritilova for a moment. Maybe its that great sporstmen do follow the old cliche that you ought to retire when people ask you 'why' not 'when'.
When he won his second slam he said he was relieved because he didnt want to be labelled a one-slam-wonder. Its a pity that no one said he would win only a dozen slams. With a ferocious back-hand, a potent second serve and a physique built like a bull it would not have been a wonder had he won even 20. Twelve intermitent years in tennis plagued with injuries and each year a painful wait to witness mad Marat turn saint Safin, as Nirmal Shekhar put it, and stand true to the potential that he displayed in his rise to fame . But alas, he left the grand stage just the way he entered smashing racquests and arguing footfault calls.
The graceful 'Safinnetes' who formed the cynosure of all eyes whenever he played, his idiosyncracies of arguing with the refs , gestures like kissing net cord lady or pulling down his shorts to 'let off some steam' as he put it would be sorely missed. He showed his game was much more than tennis.
That he was shown the door by the reigning US open champion who himself is 20 year-old, a year in his life which made the world stand up and take notice of his precocious talent is but a setting an ardent fan would have hoped for.
Lets hope he proves true to his talent and not end as someone 'who could have been...'Lets all hope the 'other door' does open up in his life which wouldn't surprisingly be mounteering in some distant altitudes away from hustle of world tennis where he wouldn't be bombarded with the same question time and again "when will you start winning and justify the portend predictions??"or being reminded of his epic match in the US open where he decimated a red-hot Sampras or of the lob he managed to conjure against Fed which helped him save a match point and subsequently the match and the championship.
So long Safin and thanks for all the tennis.