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If you can still manage to run at the age of 38 and still be No 1 in the world, it means there must be something wrong with the other players.” What about the young Russians Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev, who have all made significant breakthroughs in the last year or two?

“They’re talented, but to go from being a talented player to a top 10 player is like going from here to the moon,” Safin said. They need to work a lot because they have a lot of ups and downs.

Put it to Safin that not much has changed in tennis since he retired at the end of 2009 – when Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray occupied the top four places in the world rankings – and the former US Open and Australian Open champion does not sound too impressed.

“If Federer and Nadal are still winning I think there’s something wrong,” Safin said as he sat back in a courtside seat at the Albert Hall before the start of play on Thursday.

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Notable individual victories in the course of the year included wins over Flavia Pennetta, Emmanuelle Gagliardi, Maria Elena Camerin, Tamarine Tanasugarn and Yayuk Basuki. 136 on the strength of her ITF performances alone, she gained direct entry into her first WTA Tour event at Tashkent.

No matter how much you work in the gym, it becomes harder and harder to recover match after match.

Age catches up with you.” Safin, who will play his opening match against Xavier Malisse on Friday, looks in good shape considering the years he spent away from tennis. In my job I was sitting down all the time and I had no time to do any exercise.

Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic have been the only interlopers.

“I’m not saying that our times were the best, but when I was growing up, players were winning ATP tournaments at 16, 17, 18,” Safin said.

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