Another tournament, another day closer to Marat's retirement. Heh, now you'd wish you could turn back time and look back to yesteryears' Australian Open 2005, well, nah. This is all we get now.
Now after all the press releases and the wildcard talk, Marat finally hopped into a plane and did not disappoint.
He's already there, arrived with the 'caterpillar' shirt (as my friend aptly described), and will face Jose Acasuso, his first round-opponent. Seems like the Chinese do want the Russian for keeps, they've set a collision very favorable to Marat due to Acasuso's injuries.
Match has been postponed for today and will start on Tuesday. The farewell party will be held after Marat's last match in Beijing. Next stop is Shanghai. But till then, let's party.
Photos at the airport:
When Marat Safin practices in China, people pay attention. More than 100 fans gathered around the former No. 1's practice court Saturday to watch a warm-up set between Safin and the American James Blake. There were a few Blake fans, but people came out en mass to cheer Safin on.
One fan wearing Safin's image on his shirt reached under the court fence to snag a ball that had been graced by the touch of Safin's racquet. When Safin laughed at him, the crowd cooed. When he missed a point and threw his racquet in disgust, the crowd gasped. One fan waved the flag of Safin's Russian homeland while another held a "We love Safin" sign upside-down, perhaps unfamiliar with the particulars of the English language.
Though Safin won the China Open in 2004, he is no longer at the top of his game. Currently ranked 58, Safin only reached the Beijing-based tournament after officals gave him a wild card.
But that doesn't stop his fans from obsessing over him. When asked why the Chinese love Safin, one female fan replied, "He's just so sexy. I love looking at pictures of him."
It seems that there are many Chinese who want Safin's picture. Fans pushed cameras through the court fence hoping to get a clean shot of the tennis star. Even a police officer took a break from his patrol to capture a picture of Safin, trying different angles in hopes of the perfect shot.
And Safin is good to the fans who love him. After practice, Safin instructed his entourage to toss used tennis balls into the crowd, transforming them into a sea of grabbing hands. Safin then spent a few moments signing autographs, causing guards to re-enforce the barricades holding the masses at bay.
Organizers of the 2009 China Open plan to throw a farewell party Safin this week.
By Jim Buell http://www.chinaopen.com.cn/news/en/...4/182094.shtml
A Tsingtao to Maratik!