Now, with Roger Federer taking a break from the current 2021 ATP season due to knee surgery, let's take a look at the players who debuted on the tour around the same time as Federer. Marat Safin Before the start of the Federer phenomenon, Russian tennis star Marat Safin ruled the roost.
He was the first Russian to win the US Open title in 2000 (he defeated Pete Sampras in straight sets). Safin, an offensive baseline player, is a hard court specialist and never hesitated to reach the net. Along with Agassi, the Russian was also touted for having one of the best double backhand in the history of the sport.
Highly talented, the former world number one did not chase titles and instead looked to have fun at tennis matches. This lack of determination could also be one of the reasons why Safin has not achieved prolonged success on the ATP tour.
Throughout his career, Safin managed to win two major titles (2000 US Open and 2005 Australian Open). The Russian faced Federer a total of 12 times during his career and proved victory in just two matches. While the Swiss Master outpointed Safin regardless of the surface, the latter managed to win the semifinals of the 2005 Australian Open (where Roger was the defending champion) and won the final against Lleyton Hewitt.
After retiring from professional tennis, Marat Safin donned the hat of a politician when he was elected to the Russian parliament. In 2017, he resigned from that position and was recently seen in the ATP Cup as team captain for Russia.
Fish praises Roger Federer
Former World No. 7 Mardy Fish recently gave his thoughts on Roger Federer's post-2003 ascendancy. Fish claimed that Federer was the reason male American tennis players, including himself and Andy Roddick, couldn't assert themselves on the tour.
"Roger had this aura of invincibility about him where you just could never breathe, cause he could turn it like that," Fish said. "Boom. Point's over." Mardy Fish went on to recall his 2004 Halle final against Roger Federer.
The Swiss had stormed to a 6-0, 3-0 lead inside half an hour on that day, eventually winning 6-0, 6-3. "We played in the final of 2004 in Halle," Fish said. "Roger went up 6-0, 3-0 in like 25 minutes. I'm like 'unbelievable, this guy's gonna beat me 6-0, 6-0 in the finals of a tournament'
I think he probably felt bad for all of the people that had paid money to come watch, and I'm still to this day convinced that he prolonged the match a little bit longer so it was 6-0, 6-3. He made it like an hour."