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Fabrice Santoro Blogs From Marseille

In action against Arnaud© Getty ImagesIn action against Arnaud

Friday, February 17, 2006   
Well, yet again it was another long match with Arnaud. He took me out in a third set tie-break after 2 hours and 42 minutes. He won two more points than I did: 105 to 103, so it was a very close match with a high quality of tennis. But in the end there could only be one winner.

When I was younger I would think about losses for a long time, maybe even for a couple of nights. But these days after about two or three hours I try to turn the page. I will have dinner with a good friend tonight and we won't talk about the match all evening. After so many years on the tour you have to get used to losing at some point. You can't win a tournament every week.

I spoke to Arnaud a couple of times before our match, including in the locker room before we went out. He knows I am developing a new racquet and he joked that I should change my racquet today. "Today is not a good day for me to try it," I said.

During the match some of my friends in the crowd made me laugh with some of their comments. They helped me to relax and have fun, which is important.

I'll go straight to Rotterdam tomorrow and meet up with my wife and daughter. There's no school next week so it will be great to be with them again.


Thursday, February 16, 2006   
I knew it was going to be a long day with two matches to play so it's always important to be in good form in the morning. I came over here and practiced two hours before my singles match with Mahesh [Bhupathi] - as we'd be playing doubles together later in the day it made sense. Then I rested and ate some pasta ahead of my singles match. I played my singles and then rested two hours before playing the doubles.

It's important to get a quick win in singles if you're playing twice in the day. My match against Greg [Rusedski] lasted about 1 hour, 15 minutes so I was able to play the doubles without being too tired, which was great. It was quite a clear-cut match against Greg, which was great. A few years ago I beat Thomas Johansson here in the first round and then lost to Rusedski in the second. This time around I beat Johansson again in the first round and followed up with the win over Rusedski, so it's an improvement on last time.

I spoke to my wife and my daughter after my singles as I knew that it would be too late to talk to my daughter after my doubles match as she'd be in bed. So I spoke to my daughter beforehand and she was just off to her dance lessons. Usually I call my wife and daughter pretty quickly after my matches to keep them informed, to tell them if I've won or lost. If I've lost, then they know that the positive thing is that I'll get back home quickly.

It was great to play with Mahesh again and that was the feeling heading into the match. We hadn't played together for over two years. We still remembered how we played all that time ago but we discussed a few things in the locker room before the match to refresh our memory a bit. Unfortunately we lost [to Knowle and Melzer] but it was a lot of fun and a high-quality match against a top team.

It's amazing to see John McEnroe winning doubles matches again. I can't imagine playing when I'm that old, but he's always been a special case. I don't think many people could be doing that at that age. I would love to play alongside him one day. I was on the same flight as Jonas Bjorkman on the way back from Australia and told him how jealous I was.

My parents and sister watched me again today. They live about 45 minutes away and come over here for my matches. Tonight we'll have a family dinner here on-site at the restaurant.

After my doubles I made sure to get a massage and some stretching so that my body will be ready to go again tomorrow. I think I'll be playing late tomorrow. I'm still not sure about how many times I'll practice yet. For sure I'll practice in the morning and maybe again shortly before my match. I've always had long battles against Arnaud [Clement], our match at Roland Garros seemed to last for an eternity a couple of years ago. Tomorrow it will be just three sets though so it for sure won't last as long but I hope it will be a good match.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006   
Today was very special, winning my 400th career match against Thomas Johansson. I was very happy to see my mother and father and sister there. I will often look to them to feed off their positive energy. I warmed up with Ivan Ljubicic for half an hour before the match.

Thomas and I are good friends and we were talking in the locker room five minutes before we went out to play. He was telling me about Sweden’s Davis Cup tie against Argentina in Argentina last weekend. He said the atmosphere was pretty tough.

After the match the press was asking about the 400 wins milestone. I was a little surprised by all the interest but I guess there aren’t too many players on the tour with that many wins. I was asked who was the first guy I ever beat. I couldn’t remember, but he must be pretty old by now.

Obviously the game has changed a lot since I started. Most of the guys today hit pretty hard and don’t use a lot of slice. One guy I remember enjoying playing with in the past was Morocco’s Hicham Arazi. We always had fun matches.

It’s tough to identify what my best wins were during all those years. But my run to the Australian Open quarterfinals last month is definitely a highlight. To make the singles quarterfinals of a Grand Slam after so many years was very big for me.

After today’s match I met with some people from a French company Inesis. With them I am developing a new racquet. We started about three years ago with a pen and a piece of paper and now we’re just a few weeks away from having something to hold. If all goes well I hope to start hitting with it in the next few weeks.

Tomorrow I play Greg Rusedski, who beat me here in 2002 when we last met. He’s obviously got a great serve that isn’t easy to return. But hopefully I can get win No. 401!


Tuesday, February 14, 2006  
I'm pleased to report that my dentist gave me the all clear. I don't need any work done, so that's always a good feeling. I think he's pretty busy at the moment so it was nice for him to find time for me last night. He didn't ask for any tickets to the tennis but if I'm still in at the weekend then I'm sure he'll try to come along and watch.

Today I'm going to have a hair cut on site, so I'm taking care of my affairs this week! Every day since December I've been thinking about getting my hair cut! But I won't be doing anything crazy like a few years ago when I had blond hair - I don't think my daughter would recognize me.

I had a great meal last night at a good French restaurant. My friend and I had the Marseille special - bouillabaisse, which is a soup with fish. It's a main course and it was unbelievably good. But when I got back to the hotel I was only feeling 'so-so' because I'd eaten one too many bowls.

This morning I practiced with Rafael Nadal. We hit for about 45 minutes on a back court so the fans didn't know we were there. But there were two Spanish TV crews there getting some footage. Obviously Nadal playing his first match in four months is very big news. I've never played him in a real match but we've played a couple of exhibitions, including about 10 days ago. It's a fun combination of different games and hopefully before the end of my career I will play him in a tournament.

I spoke to him for a while and he's very excited and nervous to be back on the tour. I think he has something in his shoes to help his foot problem. It was interesting to see how he's moving and he looks to me to be at 100 percent. I think he's got big expectations this week.

Tomorrow I play second from 11am against Thomas Johansson. The ATP just told me that I am one win away from my 400th career match victory. Thanks guys for the pressure! Hopefully it will come tomorrow.


Monday, February 13, 2006  
It’s not often that you can visit your regular dentist at an ATP stop, but that’s where I’m going today. I grew up about an hour outside Marseille (my parents still live there) and that’s where my regular dentist still has his practice. So I thought it makes sense to see him while I’m in the area. I now live with my family in Geneva, which is about a four hour drive from here, so that’s why I don’t get to see my dentist too frequently. I’m just going to have a general check-up for half an hour or so. Hopefully he won’t have to numb me up because I’m planning to have a nice dinner with a friend who has come down from Paris.

It looks like I have a Wednesday start, so I practiced twice today and tomorrow I’ll just practice once.

This is my first tournament since the Australian Open, where I reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time. I experienced some amazing moments in Australia, so I needed to let my body and mind rest afterwards. It was a very tiring event. After the tournament I went back home to Geneva and found my rhythm again away from tournaments, taking my daughter to school every day, having dinner with friends, recuperating.

Slowly but surely I started doing a bit of physical work and was lucky enough to play an exhibition with Nadal last weekend in Tarbes, marking his return to the courts after four months. After that I started stepping up my training regimen. Last week was a tough week of training and now I'm entering a period of Marseille, maybe Rotterdam, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami. It’s a month and half of tournaments on surfaces that I like, so it's an important time for me.

My dad's been my coach in my head for the past 10 years. When he comes to tournaments, he's the boss. He comes to the tournaments he wants to. Here I'm playing only an hour away from home, so he's coming every day. I'm staying in the hotel, though, from tonight onwards. Often with indoor tournaments you play late at night and I don't want to have to drive home in the middle of the night, so it's better to stay in the hotel, which is close by.

It's a tournament I really enjoy. My parents, my sister and friends are going to come and watch so I hope that the week lasts as long as possible. My wife and daughter are staying in Geneva, though. My daughter missed three weeks of school during Australia so she can't miss another week.

My first match against Thomas Johansson will probably be on Wednesday. It’s late to play a first match but I just hope to have the chance to play a second match on Thursday. Playing back to back Wednesday to Friday is not bad but it gets trickier when you have to play Saturday and Sunday as well. But if you have a first round opponent like Johansson, you can't look that far anyway.

I'm playing doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi from Thursday too. So if things go well, it will be a tough week.

Look out for my next post tomorrow.


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