To put it euphemistically, I’d say 2009 was an interesting tennis year. Roger Federer made history, Serena Williams shout at a line judge, Andre Agassi confessed he used crystal meth, Robin Soderling upsetted Rafael Nadal on clay, Andy Roddick stepped up on Wimbledon’s turf, Kim Clijsters made a stunning comeback at the U.S. Open, etc.

Notwithstanding, I would like to dedicate this blog post for two of my favorites who are hanging up their racket this season, Marat Safin and Ai Sugiyama.

No matter how many tantrums this tall, dark and handsome Russian tennis player has thrown on the court, we all find Marat Safin impossible to resist. In 2000, when he pummeled Pete Sampras in the U.S. Open Final, the world believed that the young man could be No. 1 for several years to come. However, Marat Safin spent 13 seasons chasing after that success everyone predicted for him without really reaching it. Instead, we witnessed an athlete with raw talent breaking dozens of rackets, forgetting his equipment before a tournament, getting bored with interviews. As Tom Perrotta said about Marat Safin’s magical misery tour, “Sometimes he was great. Most times he was hilarious. But he always entertained.

Some observers qualify him as a lazy player, an underachiever. Yet, let’s think about it, how can he underachieve when he is that emotional on court? In 2005, Marat Safin finally got another chance, he eliminated Roger Federer in the Australian Open semifinal to later win the title and become No. 1. Redemption some would say?

Marat Safin and me at Montreal Rogers Cup 2009

I was ecstatic to catch Marat Safin at his last Montreal Masters Series

As for Ai Sugiyama, indefatigable Japanese player, she challenged the boundaries of athletic longevity. She retired at age 34 with the all-time record, for both male and female players, for the most consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearances which currently stands at 62 [1]. Not only she is one of the most consistent tour players, she is also the very first Asian to be ranked No.1 in either singles or doubles. I had the chance to watch her train at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. It is inspiring how she never loses for lack of hustle.

Ai Sugiyama and me after her training at Toronto Rogers Cup

Honored I was to meet one of the best doubles player in the WTA tour Ai Sugiyama

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