I arrived in the Netherlands just in time to see Fabrice Santoro do it again. For the second time in as many weeks, The Magician upended a Top 5 player. This time his victim was Novak Djokovic who didn't stand a chance as the Frenchman Santoroed him 6-3, 6-2.
Before a screaming home crowd, the Frenchman came armed on All Hallow's Eve with a full bag of tricks. Even with a heavy wrapping on his left leg from thigh to shin (a costume, perhaps?), the fabulous Fabrice sliced and diced and diced and sliced, bamboozling the Djoke who didn't know what hit him. One of the commentators called for Djoke to receive a warning similar to the one Nikolay Davydenko received in St. Petersburg for lack of effort, but no such intervention came.
We've seen Fabrice do this to many a higher-ranked opponent. Marat Safin can't stand playing the Frenchman. Andy Roddick had about enough of his tricks after the first set of his first-round match in Lyon last week. But the American managed to win the second before dropping serve early in the third and cussing his way out of the match.
Djoke had no such luck and performed no such theatrics. He simply looked like a deer in headlights from first point to last. Many of his fans suggested this was a tank in order to save himself for Shanghai. Perhaps. Perhaps not. From where I sit, he simply had no idea how to counter Fabrice's game, no will to fight it.
On the bright side, he can cash his $500K bonus check for playing both Madrid and Paris and can rest himself up for Shanghai.
For a spot in the quarterfinals, Santoro will face junkball broker Andy Murray who's trying to salvage an injury-plagued year by qualifying for Shanghai.