Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 4: Au Revoir

They call him magician. Fabrice Santoro played his last singles match at Roland Garros, bowing out to Belgian Christophe Rochus in a four-set match held over from yesterday. The magician, whom someone in the know said Parisian fans don't even like, gave them something to talk about anyway.

PARIS - MAY 27:   Fabrice Santoro of France acknowledges the crowd following his Men's Singles Second Round match against Christophe Rochus of Belgium on day four of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 27, 2009 in Paris, France.
Getty

Au revoir, Fabrice.

::

They call him mercurial. Marat Safin played his last singles match, bowing out to 23-year-0ld French wild card Josselin Ouanna. 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 4-6, 3-6, 10-8. Marat struck 86 winners to 75 errors; Josselin 62 to 61. Match of the event so far. After falling behind two sets to love, Marat stormed back to force a deciding set, and as is often the case, serving second in a set with no tiebreak eventually broke his resolve.

Ouanna was playing on fumes. I truly thought he'd bow out after dropping the fourth set. After all, he already survived a five-set match to get here. But he wouldn't give up and he wouldn't give in.

Marat fought to the bitter end. No huge walkabouts. Not much flailing on the forehand. He showed fire and deep desire. Can't strike all those winners on clay without both. But, alas, as is often the case, serving second in a set with no tiebreak eventually breaks a player's resolve. Marat looped a forehand wide to surrender the war.


Getty

Au revoir, Marat.

::

As for Ouanna, what a talent. Huge serve, whipping forehand, smooth-as-satin backhand that he can fire flat down the line, loop high with heavy topspin, slice low into the ground, slide a deft volley barely over the net. His game reminds me of Hicham Arazi's. But Ouanna possesses a huge heart.

The French tennis federation must be beside itself with its pick. It ran this one-on-one with him Monday.



Getty

Bonjour, Josselin.

23 comments:

Sa said...

I will miss Fabrice Santoro, what amazing courage and dash!

Mad Professah said...

What's that lump in Marat's shorts? grinThe Ouanna-Safin match was fantastic clay court tennis, altthouh I had to stop watching at Safin leading 1-0 in the 5th set (up a break).

María said...

Craig I'm blaming Marat losing on you jinx him, I must tell you that, you twitter jinxed him.
Ok, I admit it, I'm looking someone to blame.
I was glad to see him fight, he sometimes doesn't seem like he cares much, so I was glad to see that fire on those last sets.

Pamela said...

I'm still bummed.

I can take Marat losing, that's typical these days. What I don't like is that Marat in the end played like he CARED!!!! Argh! I missed that so much from him as a player and it really did hinge on a shot or two. They both played well. Great guts and resolve to Marat for hanging in and blocking out the crowd.

Good on Ouanna for staying in there as well. He's got a nice looking game, and moves well.

Marat was moving well too ... I'll be ok tomorrow.

Craig Hickman said...

Maria, you can blame me. I jinx my favorites all the time.

Graf_sampras said...

ha! as i forwarned in the chat box - folks watch teh marat/ouanna match . it would be a match between giants . and true enough neither gave in until the last.

when i checked out ouanna's few youtube clips -- i was immediately convinced the guy has MAJOR abilities.

at least as DEEPLY talented as Tsonga , Monfils, gasquet , federer, nadal...AND with the stature (6'4") that looks very much like a tennis player of the kind Marat Safin once was..

marat really met his match in this - in every way.

for ouanna , or ANYONE, to ATTACK marat's two-hander backhand which is one of the most fearsome out there on his good days? THAT tells you a LOT about this guy, ouanna.

hehe -- i got my hunches right again. hehehehehe...all the way from pete sampras to nadal

and tsonga, and now ouanna. hehehehe...i am sooooooooo happy. this guy has the goods, no question about it. if he can keep his wits about him..he is very dangerous against anyone.

what's the matter with these Frenchies? they keep producing some of the most interesting, all rounded players that just make you go ...."whaaaa?"


lol.

oh -- maria, pamela.

i purposely DIDN"T cheer on marat or ouanna- i didn't want to jinx marat either..BUT i had a nagging feeling this ouanna WAS going to give a HUGE battle and force marat to

CARE - at LAST -- to CARE....and beat him.

let us hOPE that marat sees this as the GREAT MOTIVATOR .

the ONE characteristic of marat above all is that he brings his best game when it is a GOOD player...the BETTER the player the MORE marat comes alive.

imo, this is the real reason marat has ":allowed" himself to become so inconsistent.

the really GREAT challenges are TOO FAR in between with the players around and at his best - most are simply beneath him.

and therefore he never quite gets the HABIT of high excellence tournament by tournament -- and loses that sharpness --

and in the end what becomes "consistent" is his inconsistency - or rather , the consistency of the "unmotivated" marat...the one that we often see make mediocre playing.

this kind of high quality player marat NEEDS. as OFTEN as possible to build hsi consistency.

let us hope he sticks around having acquired a new sense of PURPOSE and RESOLVE to show WHO HE CAN REALLY BE!!

i always had the suspicion that the greatest MISTAKE of marat in his career was to "not care about" wimbledon early in his career.

and FALL IN LOVE TOO MUCH with the FOor slower courts.

imo, it influenced the way he apporaches matches which only allowed for long chances to make mistakes rather than capitalize on his greatest assets - his huge , shotmaking game and presence to QUICKLY finish off opponents BEFORE he "gets in his way".

the semis appearance in wimbledon against federer last year PROVED that he OUGHT to have set his eye on becoming a grass court MASTER long ago

and today -- i am convinced we would have seen a marat far more consistent because his HUGE GAME would have been impacted far more positively by the grass courts and fast surfaces.

but there is still TIME.

maybe i am crazy -- but i always pictured marat as a Wimbledon Champion ...especially NOW that the surface is "truer" and slower to his liking as last year proved and his halle finals against federer in 2007 proved.

I hope marat RECONSIDERS retirement. he has TOO MUCH to offer to go so soon.

that lump in marat's crothc is obviously what he experiences : a rise when the match is getting "stiff".....

maybe that's what he needs more of.

Tennis Vagabond said...

Two of the most incredibly played matches I've ever seen were from Marat: the US Open finals against Sampras (Sampras had just won Wimbledon and Marat's crushing of him really was a sudden generational turning point- Sampras didn't win another tournament for 2 years!). I don't know that I've ever seen a player so in command of his game as Safin on that day.

Then, the Australian Open semis against Fed, one of the most beautiful matches I've ever seen.
I remember one of them started coming to the net and playing drop shots, and then the other did, and they went on for about 2 games, almost a match-within-a-match, competing on touch.
Its nothing new to say Marat had the goods, but man, we are talking about beating 2 GOAT candidates who each seemed to be at the top of their game.
The game will definitely miss him, but to be honest, we've missed THAT Marat for a long time.

oddman said...

That AO Marat is the one I'll remember best.

Best. Safin. Match. Ever.

Graf_sampras said...

Tennis Vagabond said...

Two of the most incredibly played matches I've ever seen were from Marat: the US Open finals against Sampras (Sampras had just won Wimbledon and Marat's crushing of him really was a sudden generational turning point- Sampras didn't win another tournament for 2 years!). I don't know that I've ever seen a player so in command of his game as Safin on that day.

Then, the Australian Open semis against Fed, one of the most beautiful matches I've ever seen.
I remember one of them started coming to the net and playing drop shots, and then the other did, and they went on for about 2 games, almost a match-within-a-match, competing on touch.
Its nothing new to say Marat had the goods, but man, we are talking about beating 2 GOAT candidates who each seemed to be at the top of their game.
The game will definitely miss him, but to be honest, we've missed THAT Marat for a long time.

Wed May 27, 07:17:00 PM


============


EXACTLY -- TennisVagabond.


Marat on those days was something else to behold wasn't he?

today must have been a reminder of that...except that getting it all together again is now so long after those times...and it's like watching marat trying to dig wildly through his cabinet drawers ...until near the end - with time running out - he finds the "lost key" under the clothes...but it's too late....

that's what is so sad about marat's great but tragic genius...

I TOO can not ever forget that demolition by Marat of pete sampras in USO

and then marat coming back "hot" in the AO after so many months in the previous year of just BUMMING around...

you always go:

"TSK..what a shame, such a BIG game and huge talent".

his sister Dinara said recently that his habit was , as HE adviced his sister when she asked him what to do with her practicing:

"just do what you're doing...but one hour and a half...that's fine".


ONE HOUR AND A HALF is his tolerance.....that's what SHE revealed compared to her having to work at least four hours a day.

can you just IMAGINE if he had the tolerance and consistency built on it to work as HARD as other players ?

it would have been truly frightening.

Let's hope he CHANGES his mind about retirement and gets FIRED UP because of today's loss and seeing his contemporaries do well....when he should be among the top.

Graf_sampras said...

Mad Professah said...

What's that lump in Marat's shorts? grinThe Ouanna-Safin match was fantastic clay court tennis, altthouh I had to stop watching at Safin leading 1-0 in the 5th set (up a break).

============

Reminder to the ladies:

Marat gets a lump like that in his crotch....

"when a woman . ...u know, when she gets angry and she throws things around...like plates, chairs, u know...it makes me want her even more".....


LUMP will prove it.

Graf_sampras said...

and TEnnisVagabond...we probably each have our theories on marat...but no question -- he is the BIGGEST ENIGMA in tennis!!

Graf_sampras said...

Marat is like a character straight out of the Tales of Scheherezade :the "Arabian Nights" - so familiar and yet so mysterious...

Tennisfan said...

Fabrice.. My little red mango.. I will miss him very much.

Marat is retiring too? I thought he hasn't undecided..

Oh well.. All good things must come to an end.. :(

Pamela said...

Marat beating Fed in 2005, and then the on-court interview with Courier is just about my absolute favorite tennis memory on the ATP side. Ever!

He was so calm, the swagger was there and then in the interview he told the fans something like:

"If I beat Lleyton, I'm sorry. If I lose, it will be a present from me to you." Aww!

It really was amazing to see him like that today. I truly hope this awakens something deep within to know that he CAN still play that high quality tennis if he wants to.

One title before you go, Marat. Thanks.

Graf_sampras said...

It really was amazing to see him like that today. I truly hope this awakens something deep within to know that he CAN still play that high quality tennis if he wants to.

One title before you go, Marat. Thanks.

Wed May 27, 08:48:00 PM

===

NOT ONLY "one title" Pamela....

MORE! and MAJORS! why not?

a lot of what marat is saying about retirement has to do with his very poor results in recent months -- make that years --
but the loss today - in that performance also reminded HIM -- proven by the way he blew up the FIRE even in defeat AND by how disappointed HE Was, we can all be sure of that, compared to the "shrug" attitude of recent losses --


that MARAT BELIEVES that he has at least one more MAJOR in him.

I am convinced of it.

this guy is NOT as easily impressed by what is going on AROUND HIM - despite his losses and THAT is the reason he still hangs around despite the struggle which , we must admit , is close to driving him to permanently "decide" .

he is giving himself the year to SEE SIGNS from himself. that's what i believe.

and IF this guy manages to go on a HOT STREAK like in AO 2005 - and is able to build on that , he could change his mind and do another year.

the real thing that marat is grappling with, imo, is THIS, revealed with his statement:

":whenever i was away because of my injuries, i began to believe that the game had passed me by...the the players coming up had become better.....but i was WRONG....it is *I* that had become WORSE".

marat is struggling, we know that, but his struggles have LESS to do with someone like Ouanna, or roger, or nadal, or novak or anyone ....

it has more to do with Marat's conviction and the struggle to find the form that his conviction KNOWS is TRUE.

and his challenge is not so much how the REST of the tour is doing - against him --

but in finding that form - good for a week, and then two weeks.

for a title or a MAJOR.

what would be great to see is:

IF marat truly will retire , either at the end of this year if his results are not to HIS satisfaction anymore - and he will live the rest of his life without want...

or next year if THIS year presents him with something to motivate him more and be truly hungry again...

is if he could win another MAJOR and THEN retire at the top of his game!

that would be something, wouldn't it? he probably has no patience , especially at this time to win the FO - which he once declared as his favorite Major ...

and maybe he will not come around to FULLY "embracing" wimbledon even if that is probably ALL that separates him from a TITLE....

but wouldn't it be neat if he could do either of those? or

if not -- he ends his career the way sampras -- his VICTIM for his first MAJOR almost a decade ago


at the very court where he began it all? the USO?

wouldn't it be wonderful to see - one last glorious time that SMILE on his face that lit up all of tennis when this giant of a russian and giant of a talent

give THAT gift to everyone one more time?

and he goes knowing he did it against the greatest of odds in HIS career:

HIMSELF?

that would be something to remember fondly , no matter who you are.

GO MARAT!!!

if for nothing else -- do it for yourself.

you deserve to go out in the manner great champions do! but DO IT ON YOUR OWN TERMS - as the big talent that can win ANYTHING that you are.

Graf_sampras said...

I will also NOT put it past Marat , if he manages to win one more MAJOR and decides to end it on a high note....


to throw all caution and with his DEVIL MAY CARE - after all the self-control and critical balance it took to do that -- considering his mercurial personality --

throw all caution to the wind and on his TROPHY DAY



PULL DOWN HIS PANTS


from the FULL FRONTAL.....


and pick up where he left off in the FO years ago


---

just for good times' sake!


and NEVER be forgotten along with his Majors!

that oughta show all the "greats"


WHO's KING OF THEM ALL in the right place...!


lol.

Graf_sampras said...

THAT way -- everyone will be satisfied to KNOW for a FACT the Million Dollar Question of the ERA:

no -- NOT "how many majors could marat have won?"




but........















:"WHAT IS THAT BIG LUMP IN MARAT's TROUSERS?"


lol.

Graf_sampras said...

oddman said...

That AO Marat is the one I'll remember best.

Best. Safin. Match. Ever.

Wed May 27, 08:04:00 PM

=========

Oddman -- what Marat said of those two Championships was this:


"this AO is the most satisfying win because I struggled for a long time before this ...even if it is probably not the best tennis i ever played...it has been so long since I played played....to find that level....i can almost not remember because it was so long ago........my title against sampras..but in that USO - i didn't really realize how important it was because I was so young...i had nothing to lose...but this AO -- i wanted to prove i could still win a major".


they are both memorable in their different ways:

the USO for how PURE safin was. how unsullied... as if he was playing inside a shell with no concerns for the world at all...what even safin himself had said was a level that kept haunting him to reach again.

the AO was of another color:

more EARTHY - more bloodied by the years , by disappointment, by fits and starts...by feelings of being "left behind"....more "weathered" and "scarred"....

and because it was won against the world's best player - who was nearly unapproachable by any others -

ultimately - as safin said :

"more satisfying".

but to ME as a fan of marat - and tennis - and its history

both were equally , always will be , unforgettable.

for the reasons of WHO he defeated

but MOST OF ALL because of WHO WON ...marat safin.

he was simply incredible in both matches and in those tournaments.

Graf_sampras said...

maybe s0me of us that are passionate enough about marat's game and presence - can find time somehow to message him in his official website.

ASSURING HIM we can understand his decisions


but HOPE and WISH that he NOT retire - stay with it, give himself EVERY LITTLE chance...

Graf_sampras said...

TEnnisVagabond:

I don't know that I've ever seen a player so in command of his game as Safin on that day.

=============


While I was of course disappointed as a fan of pete...i had long been aware of safin, particularly keeping note of his performance against Andre Agassi at the 1998 FO (granted that it was a bad year for andre who was still just emerging from recent bouts when he forced himself to do the Challengers and "pick up my own balls") ...

but when I saw safin run around with that big frame of his at the FO i was pretty convinced this was MAJOR talent.

and my disappointed at pete's demise that day in the USO quickly turned to being really pleased to see this extremely engrossing talent.

at least - based on that performance - i used to call safin in GoTennis message board "the PROTOTYPE of the new player".....

big, fluent, good mover. ..and blessed with a certain spontaneity and natural improvisation..

Graf_sampras said...

the performances, however inconsistent over the years, prove it, on youtube and tournaments on tv...

safin is
BIG RUSSIAN
BIG GAME
BIG TALENT
BIG POWER
BIG PRESENCE
BIG TEMPER
BIG WALKABOUTS
BIG HUMOR
BIG MYSTERY
BIG LUMP

María said...

Wow Graf_Sampras I just can't reply to your comments, too soon after that lose, you almost got me teary eyed =P
But I just think he's tired, that "shrug" actitude is just such a big turn off, and I don't really blame him, how many people hate their job but do it anyway? I was like that in my last job.
So seeing him fight today, that was what I like best, I would have love to keep on hoping that he would make the next round, specially after those early loses. Like Pamela said, I'll get over it tomorrow.
And I nominate your idea as the best GS victory celebration idea EVER!

Graf_sampras said...

Maria =-- so long as Marat can play like TODAY - (sure he lost - but that's been RARE that he played like THAT recently s0 we have to give him the "space" ) and stay fit and not have too many serious injuries anymore, and takes care of himself carefully for the sake of making one last , hopefully still LONG stride -

what I hope marat DOESN"T do:

is in fact "retire" this year -- and THEN feels he misses it and then sees he SHOULD have had chances in the months he retired and tries a come back and struggles ...(or maybe not, which would be good)

OR he retires and then lets a year go, another year, and then feels like he "let the years go" ......and has a certain "regret" that he left the tour "maybe too early".

SAMPRAS had pangs of that regret....ONCE he got over the "having gotten tired of it all"...didn't toucn a raquet for more than a year, started to take a Peek at tournaments on tv...started to "feel the urger again".....

and so on..........

but then of course pete HAD a very good reason why not indeed retire as he did ...he DID have a grand final USO and difficult to top , even for him. BUT THEN

who REALLY KNOWS if he became even more dedicated and greedy and fanatical in "fitness" as his old rival Andre was who even reached a uso finals 3 years after pete played his last? who BETTER to know how to win majors than pete , given a strictly regimented commitment like andre had - AND without the more debilitating condition andre had , like sciatica?

but then - why would pete have risked doing LESS than his last USO anyway...not knowing how quickly a federer would supplant him?.

all those and other points can be argued for their merits........

but MY point in that is --

I DON"T WANT to see marat REGRETING a retirement decision -- and then after a period of "breathing free air" from tennis and all the pressure --

for some reason his body , mind and tennis get that "last wind"

but he is NOT in the game...and he has that intense feeling, like pete had sometimes, of "wanting to just jump out there on the centre court in wimbledon"....

['d like safin to NOT EVER want to look back and even wonder "what could have been" if "i had not retired THAT early"....

I'd like for him to give it the last BIG GO of his career -- really all out

as IF he was just trying to make his mark like he did in 1999 to 2000

(which , just months earlier in 1999 - he HAD considered seriously RETIRING and doing something else!!!).

even with the years past now


i'd like safin to give it his all .

because as HE HIMSELF said just a year ago when asked what his motives were for still playing:

"I am still playing because I still enjoy the COMPETING - and wanting to win...if i did not , do you really think I would bother ? I am already rich, i have no problems with money for the rest of my life...i can retire anytime and be set up ...and do whatever i want to do....but i am playing because i still love the game....and I am playing because I believe I can be among the top players again and even win a major./..WHY NOT?"


THAT"S the attitude i am always hoping marat KEEPS HOLDING ON TO!

because he has a RIGHT to do so ! and i don't want him to give it up THAT easily.