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Blake Beats Santoro In Frenchman's Final Singles Match

Paris (Bercy), France

Fabrice Santoro© Getty ImagesFabrice Santoro reached a career-high No. 17 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings (6 August 2001).

American James Blake defeated French wild card Fabrice Santoro 6-4, 6-3 Sunday at the BNP Paribas Masters, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament in Paris.  It was Blake's fifth win in six meetings over 36-year-old Santoro, who was contesting his final singles match as a professional.

"Before coming onto the court, I was in the locker room with two close friends and my dad," said Santoro.  "We were joking.  We made a few photos.  We tried to immortalise the moment."

Blake won 62 per cent of service points, hit three aces and saved four of six break point opportunities in the pair sixth meeting.  World No. 53 Santoro, who dropped to a 15-20 singles record on the year, partners compatriot Sebastien Grosjean in the doubles competition later this week.

"I really would like very much to convey my experience to a younger player," said Santoro of his future plans.  "I think sometimes if those players are as lost as I was at their age, I need to help them.  I remember how lost I was, preparing a tournament, going onto the court when you don't know anything. 

"You don't even know what is your style of game.  You don't know how to use your weapons, so I would like to help those players.  But being a full-time coach, for the time being, anyway, I'm not considering that possibility.  Maybe later, but not now."

Read the next issue of DEUCE for a full Santoro tribute

Blake stated: "He's a great competitor, such a classy guy, someone I've had a lot of tough matches with. It's tough when you get to serve out the match and the crowd is really behind him.  Luckily I came through with a couple of big serves that helped kind of take the racquet out of his hand and give me the chance to close it out.

"He's had a great career.  It's unbelievable how much success he's had in singles and doubles and how well liked he is by his competitors, which I think says a lot about a person, when they do retire, how respected they are by the rest of the tour."

The 29-year-old Blake, who has reached two ATP World Tour finals this year at the Estoril Open (l. to Montanes) and AEGON Championships in London (l. to Murray), improved to a 24-20 mark on the season.

In the only other first round match on day one, German Benjamin Becker knocked out French wild card and two-time ATP World Tour finalist Michael Llodra 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and 41 minutes.  Both players hit nine aces, but Becker converted all three break point opportunities. 

The World No. 43 also beat this Llodra at the Ordina Open at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in June.  Llodra finished runner-up at the Open 13 in Marseille (l. to Tsonga) and Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon (l. to Ljubicic) this year.

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