© David Gray/ATP Tour

Team Russia captain Marat Safin, a former World No. 1, oversees training at the RAC Arena in Perth on Thursday.

Safin: The Team Russia Coach, Different To The Player

Former World No. 1 excited about the team he'll captain at ATP Cup

Marat Safin, the player, wore his heart on his sleeve and struck powerfully off both wings to become a fan's favourite. But as the charismatic captain of Team Russia, the former World No. 1 insists he will be more cautious courtside at the inaugural 2020 ATP Cup.

“The captain has to respect the coaches of each player, we’ll work together,” Safin told media in Perth on Thursday. “Not everything will be on my back, but the coaches know better than me and the effect on the player’s performance.

“I don’t want to interfere too much, because it might not have the right effect. I want them to be themselves, because everyone has their own character, and do the best they can. I want them to have their own approach and I will be careful with my words.”

With two Top 20 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings at his disposal, Safin will be joined on the bench during singles matches at the RAC Arena by Gilles Cervara (No. 5-ranked Daniil Medvedev’s coach) and Vedran Martic (No. 17 Karen Khachanov’s coach).

”I believe we have the ‘dream team’, and we’ll be the future champions of the ATP Cup,” Safin added, with a smile. “I’m really happy with the team, I’m pleased and proud to be part of a great team. Everyone is a great guy, which is very important.”

Looking ahead to their first tie on Friday against Team Italy, Safin said: “The first tie is always a tough one, the first match in the arena, Italians are always tough to play against. They are grinders and it will be important to take a good first step.

“It will be tough, for sure… but our confidence is rocking. We’ve been here a few days and we’re ready to play. Russia is into tennis with Daniil and Karen doing well right now. But we want to move ice hockey from top spot and make Russians proud.”

Safin, Medvedev

Medvedev, who put together a career-best 59-21 match record, including four titles in 2019, will face Fabio Fognini in his singles rubber on Friday. The World No. 5 said: “I like to play Fabio, it suits my style well. I don’t think he likes to play with me. It will be interesting to see what he does on Friday. I’m always proud to represent my country, hopefully very well. My first goal is to try and be consistent.”

Khachanov said: “It’s always nice to fight for your colours and together it means something. We will try to do our best, to try and win the whole championship. Everyone is proud to be part of the ATP Cup, which will be a big start to the year. I’ve been here before, the court is a little slower than in the past, but we’re prepared well and will be ready.”

Former World No. 43 Teymuraz Gabashvili, who has struggled to overcome injuries in recent years, admitted: “I'm happy to be here. I was out for a long time and to be around the guys, top-level guys, for me, is a great experience again. I hope that I can see where am I now… We have unbelievable captain – [an] ex World No. 1, so he can push everybody here, [and] a winner of Grand Slams. Our goal, for sure, is to win here.”

Team Russia, which also boast Ivan Nedelko and Konstantin Kravchuk among its lineup, competes in Group D against Italy, United States and Norway in Perth.