This is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Not only did my beloved Roger Federer lose to Julien Benneteau - yes, I had to say that to get it out of my system, because this is positively DYSTOPIC - we have witnessed the very, very last match of one of the truly great characters of tennis.
Marat Safin, we'll always have Paris.
(Yes, I know every blogger in history will be using that title today. Uniqueness is overrated.)
Marat was one of the New Balls generation, the spunky young things who came through at the beginning of the millenium and who were supposed to set tennis on fire. And they totally did set tennis on fire, too. Federer (sob sob sob why Benneteau whhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyy?!?!?!) is the one who is really going to go down in history, but at the beginning, it was all about Lleyton Hewitt and one other man - one Marat Safin. A feisty twenty year old who totally drubbed Pete Sampras in the US Open final and then celebrated with a case of vodka, because God had come to him, patted him on the head, and said 'you will the win the glory'. The Marat that proved that just because you were abrasive and opinionated it didn't stop you from being totally lovable.
Racquet-smashing Marat. Marat of the blontourage. Marat of the poker-faced humorous quips that have made him the darling of the media for many years (probably much to his disdain). Marat who didn't give a flying f*ck about anyone or anything and who did things his way.
Marat who, in the end, really didn't like tennis that much. But that was okay, because tennis liked him. The game will be poorer without him. He's no statesman, no Federer or Nadal or Ljubicic. But he is a character. Even in rankings freefall, he was one of the most popular players ever.
(Of course, it probably didn't hurt at all that he was totally smokin' hot).
It's probably sort of fitting that it was Juan Martin del Potro who defeated him today (though I probably would have found a reason for it to be fitting no matter who defeated him, except possibly Thierry Ascione). JMDP is another young dude who just won his first Slam at the US Open. At the beginning of this next decade, JMDP is going to be one of the guys who takes the game forward. He's part of this generations' New Balls, I guess you could say - and he is making his mark. He has made it today, by ending Marat Safin's career.
I don't think Marat is going to go gently into that good night. I don't think we've heard the last of him. It's not his style. We may not have the privilege of seeing him play any more, but we will, hopefully, get some more of those sardonic press conferences that have made us all chuckle. I, personally, would love to see him come to Australia some time in the future and commentate the Open with Jim Courier. I have a feeling that a match commentated by those two would be a riot, even if the match itself was as dull as dry toast.
So thanks for the memories, Marat. Ain't no one gonna forget you. And, yes, my friend, we will always, always have Paris.
BNP Paribas Masters (Paris)
Julien Benneteau def. Roger Federer, 4-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-4
Rafael Nadal def. Nicolas Almagro, 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 7-5
Novak Djokovic def. Juan Monaco, 6-3 7-5
Juan Martin del Potro def. Marat Safin, 6-4 5-7 6-4
Robin Soderling def. Ivo Karlovic, 6-4 7-6 (8-6)
Fernando Gonzalez def. John Isner, 7-5 7-6 (7-3)
Marin Cilic def. Lukasz Kubot, 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-2
Tommy Robredo def. Tomas Berdych, 6-4 6-4
Gael Monfils def. David Guez, 6-4 7-5
Arnaud Clement def. Tommy Haas, 5-7 6-3 7-6 (10-8)
Roger: older and not quite out
6 months ago