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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lack of Desire Holds Safin Back

Marat Safin has the talent and the flair to become the Michael Jordan of tennis but lacks the desire and the drive to make it all the way to the top, his Davis Cup coach says.

"I don't think many people would disagree that Safin is the most talented player in the men's game," Russia's Davis Cup captain Shamil Tarpishchev said before leaving for Buenos Aires, where the defending champions are set to take on the Argentinians in a quarterfinal matchup over the weekend.

"He has the power, the agility, the speed, everything you need to be a great athlete. Not only in tennis. In fact, he could have been successful in most other sports, in football or basketball for example."

Asked if Safin could dominate the men's game the way Serena Williams has done in the women's, Tarpishchev said: "There's no doubt about that.

"He could be as dominant as Michael Jordan was or Michael Schumacher, Tiger Woods, you name it. Unfortunately, he has the talent but not the desire to be the world No. 1."

Safin, 22, burst on to the tennis scene as a teenager in 2000, winning seven titles that year -- the most on the ATP Tour -- including a shock straight-sets victory over Pete Sampras in the U.S. Open final.

But it has been a steady downhill path since.

He won two titles the following year and tasted victory just once in 2002 at the Paris Masters Series ,where he beat world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the final.

This year, it has been one painful defeat after the other.

Safin was hampered by a wrist injury he suffered at the Australian Open in January, forcing him to miss much of the action in the following month, including the Davis Cup first-round matchup against the Czech Republic in Ostrava.

Then last month, the big Russian was humbled 6-0 6-1 by American qualifier Robby Ginepri in the third round at Indian Wells before losing his opening match in the Nasdaq-100 Open.

The former world No. 1 has slipped to eighth in the ATP rankings, his lowest position since early 2000.

Some believe that another of Safin's obstacles has been his overactive social life, although the player himself does not see it as a big distraction.

When Russian media chastised him for going out late at night before an important match at last year's Kremlin Cup, Safin just shrugged. "I don't see a problem in going to a disco and having a cola or even a glass of beer as long as you don't drink too much and don't stay until six in the morning," he said.

But a source, familiar with the player, told Reuters that if Safin had spent as much time practicing as he had partying, the results would be different.

"He is young, wealthy, good-looking, he has the world at his feet," said the source who asked not to be named. "He just wants to do it the easy way. Unfortunately for him, even the most talented need to work hard in order to succeed."

Tarpishchev says that someday Safin will regret wasting his best tennis years.

"Quite possibly, he will regret it years later, but by then it could be too late for him to do something about it," he said.

Tarpishchev has been one of the few able to get the most out of the highly talented but underachieving Safin.

Unfortunately for Safin, Tarpishchev a number of other responsibilities.

As well as being Russia's tennis chief and their Davis Cup and Fed Cup captain, Tarpishchev is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Kremlin Cup chairman.

"There are just too many other things for me. I can't be with him all the time," Tarpishchev said.

The captain, however, was hoping that Safin would somehow rediscover the form which helped Russia to clinch their first Davis Cup title over holders France last December.

"Well, he has always given his best playing for his country, and I don't see that this time would be any different," Tarpishchev said.

"Don't write him off just yet," Tarpishchev insisted. "He really wants to do well in grand slams now. I think he has a good chance at this year's French Open."