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Farewell to Santoro, the French 'Magician'

Text by Emmanuel VERSACE

Latest update : 2009-05-28

Roland Garros bid farewell to one of its darlings Wednesday, the startling 36-year-old "Magician", Fabrice Santoro. The Frenchman was unable to pull off one of his baffling feats as he lost to Belgium's Christophe Rochus in four sets.

After 20 years of success and loyal service to French tennis, 36-year-old Fabrice Santoro, ranked 50th in the ATP rankings, bowed out of the French Open for the last time after losing to Belgium’s Christophe Rochus.

 

But he is not leaving with his tail between his legs, having made several strong comebacks over the course of his career. “I never thought I’d find myself here 20 years later,” said a visibly moved Santoro before the crowd gathered to watch his last appearance at the French Open, one that lasted exactly eight minutes.


The night before, at twilight, Santoro, who was 5-2 down in the fourth set, asked the referee to suspend the match. It proved to be an ingenious move on Santoro’s part, because if Rochus had taken the next serve, it would have all been over. With the support of a rapt crowd, the Frenchman managed to get out – for the moment – on top and add a few moments of glory.


‘The Magician’


"I wanted emotion, a tightening suspense. To lose in three sets would have disturbed me. Today, the conditions were almost perfect, I would have really liked to win the fourth set," he said, acknowledging the Belgian’s superiority.


It was a match at the Roland Garros stadium he is not likely to forget. Nor is the French crowd likely to forget some of the amazing feats achieved at Roland Garros by the man nicknamed "the Magician." His 2001 match against Marat Safin remains the high point of his career, while his 2004 marathon match against Arnaud Clément, which lasted six hours and 33 minutes, remains the longest professional tennis match ever.


“I discovered myself during this match," explains the Frenchman. "I said to myself that if I can hold on for more than six hours at 32, then why not to play five hours at 33, four hours at 34? I decided to continue playing.”


But this is not the end for Santoro. He still has six more months of competitive tennis ahead of him. “I am convinced that I can put up a good show at Wimbledon. I will do everything to make it happen. In my last years, my game on grass courts has served me well. My stroke is perfect for this surface. I have also my 69th Grand Slam at the US Open, an indoor tournament in Tokyo, because I never played there, and I have to finish my French round in Metz, Lyon and Bercy," which will also give tennis fans a chance to bid adieu to Santoro's old Russian foe, Safin. "It will be fun to face that,” the Frenchman concludes.

 

Date created : 2009-05-28

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