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23 Dec, 2019 12:24

‘He hides his doubts by joking around’: Russian legend Marat Safin urges Aussie hothead Nick Kyrgios not to waste his talent

‘He hides his doubts by joking around’: Russian legend Marat Safin urges Aussie hothead Nick Kyrgios not to waste his talent

Russian former world number one Marat Safin – known for his own combustible personality during his playing days – has urged Aussie tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios to “be a warrior” and fulfill his potential.

Safin, a two-time Grand Slam champion, believes Kyrgios, 24, risks wasting his talent by “joking around” as he attempts to “hide his doubts.”

“I’m not judging and I know it’s sensitive, and you hear three million times that if he gets serious he can be a top-10 player,” Safin said of Kyrgios.

“But I think he tries to hide his doubts by joking around. He needs to face the pressure and be a warrior, not an entertainer.

“I think he’s a great warrior, he just needs to face the tough moments and once he does he could have a great career.”

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Safin himself had a reputation as something of a hothead on the court as well as a playboy off it.

However, he still managed to reach the heights of world number one as well as win the US Open in 2000 and Australian Open in 2005 – making him the last Russian man to win a Grand Slam.  

While prodigiously talented, Kyrgios’s best Grand Slam runs so far have been the quarterfinal of Wimbledon in 2014 and the same stage of the Australian Open in 2015.

Kyrgios is currently ranked 30th in the world, and last season courted yet more controversy over his spectacular rants at officials and opponents, as well as his partying.    

In September, the Australian was handed a suspended ban of 16 weeks and additional fine of US$25,000 for several explosive outbursts at tournaments.

During a second-round match at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati he called match official Fergus Murphy “a f*cking tool” and a “potato with arms and legs.”

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Safin, who himself once mooned the crowd after winning a point and is believed to have smashed around 700 rackets during his career, admitted he had suffered his own temper problems, but urged Kyrgios to deal with the pressure.   

“I know what I’m talking about ... it’s difficult to deal with the pressure, a lot of people around you but this is life and the idea is to make less mistakes as you grow up,” said Safin, 39.

“He has great potential, for some reason he isn’t consistent and that’s why the ranking bounces left and right.

“Maybe that six months is enough time to rethink what he wants to do. Time goes fast and he’s not 18 anymore. The years fly, if you don’t wake up now he’ll look back, be 35 years old and that’s it.”

Safin is preparing to captain the Russian team of Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov at the inaugural ATP Cup in Australia in January, where they will face Italy, the US and Norway in Perth.

Kyrgios will be in action alongside Alex de Minaur for the host nation as they play in a group with Germany, Greece and Canada in Brisbane.

The eight teams which qualify from the four groups will then compete in the final eight in Sydney, before the semifinals and final. Each tie comprises two singles matches and one doubles match.  

Kyrgios will need to be on his best behavior, or risk activating a lengthy ban from the sport.