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Safin wishes Kafelnikov luck

November 17, 2004 11:35 IST

Marat Safin wished fellow Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov good luck in his new career on Tuesday, adding that the former world number one was going to need it.

Kafelnikov, 30, announced earlier this week he was giving up tennis to become a professional poker player.

Safin said that his move into poker could prove more risky than one of those spectacular between-the-legs tennis shots.

"Good luck in this one because these kind of things, they can cost you a lot of money," Safin told reporters after opening his account at the Masters Cup with a 6-1, 6-4 demolition of Argentina's Guillermo Coria.

"But, from what I heard, he won a tournament and he made 330,000 Euros ($428,300), so basically that's not bad.

"You always have luck when it's the first time. Then you have to be really good. So, I hope he will be lucky."


Kafelnikov, however, is not leaving everything up to chance. He has taken on poker's 2002 Rookie of the Year Kirill Gerasimov as his coach and is approaching his new career the same way he played tennis, with thoughtful aggression.

The twice Grand Slam winner and 2000 Sydney Olympics champion has already displayed the same golden touch at the gaming tables, having won a professional poker tournament and recently competed in an event in England in which the winner collected $500,000.

The 1996 French Open and 1999 Australian Open champion has amassed nearly $24 million in career prize money and much more in endorsements and business deals, leaving a him an extremely wealthy man able to afford his latest dalliance.

"He always liked it, he always liked the casino," said Safin. "He's always been a player.

"Also on the court he was a very smart player, he achieved a lot. For him it's in the blood.

"He feels it, he feels like a player and he likes it. So why not?

"He has enough money to play."

Steve Keating
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