If he's going to go out, he's going to do it with drama. I think everyone in the tennis world would have killed Thierry Ascione if he had managed to squeak out that match against Marat Safin. The world wants as much Marat as possible before we have to let him go.
Three match points. Three match points Marat saved in this match. Three match points between him and the end of his career. I wonder if he was tempted to choke on any of them...? I'm very glad he didn't. It means I can still believe he loves tennis, still believe that maybe there will be a Clijsters/Henin style comeback for him. I know there won't be, but a girl can dream, n'est pas?
However, Marat is not the only person we're farewelling (though not yet! NOT! YET!) Fabrice Santoro has played his last ATP level match and I think it's only fitting it was in Paris, his home country, in front of an adoring crowd. 'Twas James Blake that did the deed... seriously, it's, like, the first match he's won all year, and it has to be ending the career of someone as superb as Santoro.
Santoro never was, I think, one of the greats. He never won a Slam, or any of those major, major titles that put you in contention for Halls of Fame and general tennis immortality. He was, however, special. I don't think there's any player who was quite as unusual as him, with such a quick, quirky style of play, with such soft hands and such creativity. Every time I watched him play - he might not always have won, but still - he came up with some stuff which was really unexpected. He was a constant surprise. And he was different, and we like different here at this blog.
But now it's time to say goodbye to the little wizard. Marat Safin once said that being told he had to play Santoro was like being told he was going to die - such was Santoro's ingenuity and originality on the tennis court. Here's hoping a few kids see some tapes of Santoro and try to factor some of that quirky brilliance into their play - because the tennis world needs some magicians like Fabrice Santoro.
BNP Paribas Masters (Paris)
Andreas Seppi def. Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-3 6-3
Ivo Karlovic def. Pablo Cuevas, 7-6 (7-3) 6-4
Tomas Berdych def. Vincent Millot, 6-3 7-6 (7-4)
Lukasz Kubot def. Andreas Beck, 6-4 3-6 6-4
Viktor Troicki def. Paul-Henri Mathieu, 7-6 (7-4) 3-0 retired
Albert Montanes def. Victor Hanescu, 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-3)
John Isner def. Alejandro Falla, 4-6 7-6 (12-10) 7-5
Marat Safin def. Thierry Ascione, 6-4 4-6 7-6(7-3)
Italy def. USA, 4-0
Flavia Pennetta def. Alexa Glatch, 6-3 6-1
Francesca Schiavone def. Melanie Oudin, 7-6 (7-2) 6-2
Flavia Pennetta def. Melanie Oudin, 7-5 6-2
Errani/Vinci def. Huber/King, 4-6 6-3 11-9 (match tiebreak)
Roger: older and not quite out
6 months ago