Fabrice Santoro played what everyone assumes was his final match on home soil yesterday, in what was the end of a rare tennis fashion. We not only saw a man who invented shots no one else would imagine playing but he was still bamboozling the opposition as he approached his 37th year.
The roof was almost taken from the Palais Omnisports yesterday when Santoro beat his retreat, exchanging sweaty shirts with American James Blake at the end of a straight-set first-round defeat.
“Before coming onto the court, I was in the locker room with two close friends and my dad. We were joking. We made a few photos. We tried to immortalize the moment,” he said. “We knew it might be the last time. When I left the locker room, I immediately focused on the match. I knew I was ready, because I practiced very well during the past days. I worked hard, I had no pain. I was playing well during practice, but this doesn’t mean you can play a high-level match. So I wasn’t sure.
“I was able to hold my serve. I was the first one to break him. It was a very intense match with high-level tennis. But that feeling of thinking [as I was] coming out of the locker rooms that it might be the last time I would walk down those steps and be in the middle of this huge arena is something very difficult to express. Although I am the one who made the decision eleven months ago to put an end to my career, I still know that many things are going. I’m going to miss many things, and I know the crowd will. I will miss the crowd, and even coming here to press conferences is something I will miss because we have been seeing each other for many years and all these rituals I had in my life are going to disappear.