Crowd favourite Safin on his way back to Australia

“I will not say which area I would take [next] … but I’m definitely open to any opportunities,” Safin said.

“I would look at any types of projects but it would have to be interesting.

“It depends on the situation.”

Russia has been drawn against Italy, USA and Norway and will play their group stage matches in Perth. The Western Australian capital is normally accustomed to hosting mixed team events with the Hopman Cup a staple there for 30 years as part of Australia’s summer tennis schedule.

I had only one grand slam and for me it was an obsession to win a second one.

Marat Safin

Safin has fond memories of Australia. His Australian Open triumph came five years after he soared to prominence by winning the 2000 US Open, aged 20.

“I had only one grand slam and for me it was an obsession to win a second one,” the 39-year-old recalls.

“It was one I truly enjoyed while playing but I really enjoyed when I won it.”

Safin beat both a tenacious Hewitt and the local crowd when he triumphed in four sets. It was a year after losing the 2004 final to Federer, and three years after he was runner-up to to Swede Thomas Johansson.

Before a capacity crowd keenly awaiting the first local Australian Open men’s champion since Mark Edmondson in 1976, Hewitt raced through the first set 6-1 before the impact of a series of draining matches during the tournament started to bite. The Russian prevailed 1–6, 6–3, 6–4, 6–4.

Safin (left) is congratulated by Lleyton Hewitt after the 2005 Australian Open final.Credit:AP

“It was a tricky situation [playing against Hewitt in Australia],” Safin said.

“Against Hewitt I felt really fresh … he was playing at his home tournament and he was pumped. But he had played a lot of five-set matches so he was not really fresh against me.”

The opportunity to captain Russia, with the talent currently available, was in some ways too good an offer to refuse. But Safin also knows the selector’s hat will be a tough one to wear with Medvedev, Khachanov and the dangerous Andrey Rublev all ranked in the top 25.

“Unfortunately not everybody can play for Russia, but still we have a great team … the situation is amazing,” he said.

“For me it will be a pleasure if I could help in some way … I can see the potential here.”

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