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This match was played R3 of Roland Garros 2001. Safin was second seeded in this tournament, but he would come across his nemesis, Fabrice Santoro.
Santoro was known for being a giant killer, and although he never exceeded a career high of 17, he defeated top 10 opponents 40 times, including to-be, holding or former no.1s, such as Becker, Agassi, Sampras, Hewitt, Safin, Rafter, Federer, Roddick, Djokovic, and even Muster on clay! Santoro's unique style led him being referred to as the Magician, able to conjure points from all parts of the court. Certainly this man knew how to construct points in ways that often seemed impossible, and he read the game very well in general, not even Federer could claim he truly could understand what he was facing on the other end.

Safin in particular knew about Santoro's potency and giant killing reputation because Santoro led their H2H 5-1 prior to this match (would finish 7-2 careerwise). They say that tennis is more than simply a matter of execution but also problem solving and in this match, and problem solving was often a step too far for the mercurial Russian, whose power game didn't naturally faze the wily, clever Santoro. This was their first clay meeting. Santoro bagged the first two sets before Safin appeared to find his mojo in the 3rd and 4th sets, which he wrapped up very quickly. However, Santoro despite his tendency not to be able to close from 2-0 at the best of times in slams once again reasserted his grip on the match and won the fifth, perhaps with some assistance from the home crowd. Santoro would return to Roland Garros the following season to play the longest grand slam match ever (6:36) before this record would be contested by the Mahut vs Isner marathon in 2010.

Full match minus a few games:


Highlights
 

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Santoro must've been a pain to play :D love the unconventional shots. Safin had great easy power, an underachiever for sure.
 
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By the way the H2H is strange, sure Fabrice Santoro was tricky but all matches but one were played offclay, they even played two matches on carpet, not sure how Marat Safin lost these matches, embarrassing he lost sets 0-6, 1-6, and 2-6 all on hard court or carpet, most of the losses were in straight sets.
 

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By the way the H2H is strange, sure Fabrice Santoro was tricky but all matches but one were played offclay, they even played two matches on carpet, not sure how Marat Safin lost these matches, embarrassing he lost sets 0-6, 1-6, and 2-6 all on hard court or carpet, most of the losses were in straight sets.
Santoro beat Federer on carpet in 2002

 

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I was distracted over Easter by the dubious charms of Tiger King, so am only on the second set of this match. A fascinating encounter and a great choice.

Some general thoughts on Santoro and his giant-killing prowess:

* Top players are good problem-solvers, but it is not easy for them to work out eccentric playing styles on the fly. Most of the time, their problem-solving relies to some extent on familiar patterns. Somebody like Santoro nullifies that experience almost fully.

* Santoro's style inspires fascination and repugnance: in a words, it's freakish. OK, somebody like Seles also had a double-handed forehand, but she used it as a weapon, and she didn't scuttle around the court like a crab, and she didn't specialise if forehand slices! There's a kind of Dustin Brown factor here.

* For all the touch and guile Santoro brought to bear, there is a liberating thrill every time Safin unleashed one of his elegant forehand winners.

More thoughts when I've watched more.
 

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I remember watching it live on TV but it was interesting and felt like a new experience watching it again.

The wind, which i had absolutely no memory of it being so strong certainly played a part in this match. It looked like Santoro was in control of the match midway in the 3rd but lost 11 games in a row before Safin got frustrated again and didn't have the patience to finish it of.

The stats from the old official site : Roland Garros - Internationaux de France - Site officiel réalisé par IBM - Résultats

(By the way, browsing that 2001 draw i came across that Larsson-Arazi match, both with 20+ W/UE ratio and epic game style, those are the type of matches i would pay decent money to watch back in good quality).
 

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Great match! Wow, I‘d love a YouTube channel that discusses classic tennis matches or something. Nice we have our little nieche here and we probably wouldn‘t be talking about this match without the virus, too.
 

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Thanks to @MWW for the great suggestion and excellent intro.

For next week's classic match chat, I'm playing a wild card and picking Becker vs Lendl, Masters Final 1988.

Part 1 (of 5) is here:


The other four parts are also on YouTube.

The video quality is pretty decent, the tennis quality is sky-high.

The laconic commentary is in German.

Tennis TV subscribers will (I guess) have a high-quality video with English commentary.

I'll post the new match thread on Monday.
 

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Some comments for first set and a half:
The difficulty with playing Santoro was the sudden changes of pace. He could really seem to prolong the point with his FH slices, and then suddenly ramp up the speed down the line on the BH. His slow approach slices also gave him time to set up, and these balls landed often deep. Sometimes he would knife that FH slice so that it would stay so low and would be extremely hard to counter. Santoro was also very effective with defensive lobs and Nadal like gets at end-range, burned Safin quite a bit with these (See the point to set up SP in set 1). Safin did sometimes return the favour on cat and mouse (see 1:06:55 pt)

Marat though was quite erratic and couldn't quite put away points he had set up at the net. This was crucial in losing the first set. He had the right idea to acutely open up the court where Santoro could only defend at end range, but often misfired on the penultimate shot. Some of this was a mix of the clay bounce, the wind and the differences of pace Santoro was throwing at him. Other times, Safin was a little hesitant when it came to volleys. As far as Marat was concerned, he was doing a lot of work for little return, certainly not much return without hurting himself.
 
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