After more than twenty years on the ATP tour, Fabrice Santoro has finally called it a day.
Santoro made what looks likely to be his final professional appearance yesterday, losing 6-4, 6-3 to James Blake in the first round of the Paris Masters.
Santoro may yet play in the Australian Open at the start of next year to set a new record of having competed in grand slams across four decades. The Frenchman is undecided on that but either he considers yesterday’s match the official end of his career.
Tennis had never before seen any player like Santoro and it may never again. He brought exhibition style tennis to the ATP tour, delighting in his ability to execute shots opponents would never dream of expecting.
However do not dismiss Santoro as a mere joker, this was a player who played all the big names and won a fair few times. He reached six in the world in doubles and won two Australian Open titles with Michael Llodra.
In singles he beat fourteen world number ones, including three wins over Pete Sampras and three against Andre Agassi. Santoro’s 6-1, 6-1 demolition of Sampras in Monte Carlo 1998 led to the American dubbing him “the little magician,” a tag which remained with him for the rest of his career.
It was an emotional post-match farewell from Santoro. "It's a beautiful defeat," he said, "with a quality match against a good [opponent], Blake, with a good atmosphere and lots of people in the [stadium]. Thirty years devoted to tennis is also thirty years that have passed very quickly. When you're passionate, you don't calculate the number of hours spent training, travelling, fighting on court. Everything comes naturally. Like today, I've always given the maximum.”
"All aspects of my career will be missed: the adrenaline, the contact with the press, the public and the uncertainty of the profession... it must be 525 tournaments [I've played]. And I have lost 519 times, it's a lot (smiles). Today, I'm content that all this stops and I can start a new life, a normal life."