The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Party boy Safin defends image

Sydney: Russian tennis ace Marat Safin defended his party boy image Sunday, saying he needed to balance the grind of life on the men’s professional circuit.

Safin, the top seed for the Sydney International tournament that leads into next week’s Australian Open in Melbourne, has been criticised for off-court distractions that have affected his game.

The US Open champion said he was determined to have fun for having a proper balance of business and pleasure in life.

“It’s really important to enjoy what you are doing, enjoy the way you are living because time is running really fast,” the World No. 3 said.

“Every year is faster and faster and your best times are when you are young. When you are 30 you are not going to be able to do the same things as when you are 20, right'

“This is the best time ... Enjoy every moment of your life, every day and not regret afterwards.”

Lifesize images of Safin and compatriot Anna Kournikova are positioned near the entrance of the Sydney International Tennis Centre this week.

“It’s tough to compete with Anna. She’s good,” Safin said, when asked which cut-out was likely to figure in more pictures.

The Russian’s claim that his summer entourage consisted only of his coach and doctor will please critics who say distractions are preventing him from reaching his considerable potential.

“My problem is not a tennis thing, it’s mental. Sometimes my concentration just goes away from the game and it’s difficult to come back,” he said.

“That’s why sometimes I’m suffering. I understand this, I know what I have to do but it’s really, really tough to bring myself to this level. I’m trying and I’m growing up. I’ll be 23 soon and hoping I’ll manage to bring this level to my game.”

Safin has reunited with former coach Denis Golovanov, calling him a “great friend who I can trust” and is bidding to go one better than his runner-up effort to Sweden’s Thomas Johansson at last year’s Australian Open.

He will face a quality field in Sydney this week that contains six of the world’s top 10.

“That’s why I am in Sydney to prepare. You have great players in the draw and to win you have to find your best tennis,” he said.

“A win here would give me a lot of confidence going into the Australian Open. Then there it’s a different story.”

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