Safin: “Something wrong” with tennis if Federer and Nadal keep winning

The last time Marat Safin played a match on the ATP Tour was the second week of November in 2009. At the time, Roger Federer was No. 1 in the world and Rafael Nadal was No. 2. Eight years later, not much has changed. No. 1? Nadal. No. 2? Federer.

And although their longevity and dominance says a lot about those two all-time greats, Safin thinks it may say even more–or less, it could be said–about the competition level.

“If Federer and Nadal are still winning, I think there’s something wrong,” the 37-year-old Russian said this week while playing in the Champions event at London’s Royal Albert Hall. “I don’t see any upcoming superstars today. I’m not saying that our times were the best, but when I was growing up players were winning ATP tournaments at 16, 17, 18 (years old). Now players are only just starting to be pros at the age of 25. I don’t know why that is.

“Players used to retire by the time they got to 30. At 32 you were a dinosaur. Now you see players who are still running at the age of 38. The upcoming young guys just aren’t at a high enough level. If you can still manage to run at the age of 38 and still be No 1 in the world, it means there must be something wrong with the other players.”

Safin did not even spare his fellow Russians who are part of the ATP’s NextGen push–Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov, and Daniil Medvedev.

“They’re talented, but to go from being a talented player to a top 10 player is like going from here to the moon,” he explained. “It needs a lot of work and it’s not just about hitting the ball on the court. You have to do work off the court. There’s the psychology, strategy, tactics. They need to work a lot because they have a lot of ups and downs. Rublev, Khachanov–they win one tournament and then they don’t win a match for six months.

“If you want to be a really good pro, you need to be beating Nadal and Federer now. Look at (Andy) Murray and (Novak) Djokovic. They were beating the top players when they were 19 or 20, but you just don’t see that from the younger players today. Federer and Nadal are great players but they’re getting older. No matter how much you work in the gym, it becomes harder and harder to recover match after match. Age catches up with you.”

For whatever reason, it is not catching up with the current ATP Tour. Federer (36), Nadal (31), Djokovic (30), Murray (30), and Stan Wawrinka (32) have combined to win 49 of the the last 51 major titles since Safin’s triumph at the 2005 Australian Open. Alexander Zverev, 20, is up to No. 4 in the world and upset a hobbled Federer at this summer’s Montreal Masters, but he made little noise at the four Grand Slams.

8 Comments on Safin: “Something wrong” with tennis if Federer and Nadal keep winning

    • Kavita is wrong for the trillionth time.Median age of the top 20 is 29.5.

      12 of the Top 20 are between 28-32 and Rafa at 31 is right in that mix.

      Federer, on the other hand is the only significant outlier on the geriatric end at 36.5 yrs (with Warinka a distant second oldest at 32).

      Perhaps Roselyne Bachelot should have looked elsewhere.

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