Battered and bruised after a fist fight and weary after a long flight from Moscow, Marat Safin was still good enough to lead Russia to a 2-1 victory in their opening Hopman Cup tie with Italy yesterday.
It was a bizarre start to what is expected to be the final year of his playing career.
Safin, who is teamed with his younger sister Dinara Safina in the mixed teams tournament, arrived in Perth still bearing the prominent scars of a scuffle in Moscow over the New Year period.
However, neither that nor the fatigue of a long flight from Russia less than 24 hours earlier could stop the 28-year-old beating Italian Simone Bolelli in straight sets in their singles clash.
The charismatic dual Grand Slam champion and former world No.1 had a prominent shiner beneath his blood-shot left eye, a bruise on his left cheek and a cut next to his right eye. He also had his right thumb and wrist taped.
The player said all the injuries were the result of a fight in Moscow “a week ago.”
“I got in a little bit of trouble in Moscow, but it’s OK, I can survive,” he said.
Currently ranked 29th, Safin also confirmed that he was viewing this season as the final year of his colorful playing career, with business interests expected to lure him away from the game.
“This is probably going to be my last year for sure,” he said. “I am moving to my new life.”
Safin’s 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 win over Bolelli wrapped up the Group A tie for Russia, after Safina earlier beat Flavia Pennetta in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3.
Safina had her hands full with Pennetta, trailing 5-3 in the first set and 3-0 in the second.
However, the world No.3 showed her class to win the last four games of the first set and the last six of the second against the gritty Italian.
The Italians grabbed some consolation by winning the mixed doubles.