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Santoro ends record-tying tryst

FABRICE Santoro walked off the court at the French Open for the last time yesterday, ending his record-tying run of 20 straight appearances at Roland Garros.

The 36-year-old Frenchman played only eight minutes yesterday before completing a first-round loss to Christophe Rochus of Belgium 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4. The match had been suspended on Tuesday.

"When I started my career on court No. 10 in 1989, I did not imagine at all that I would hold the microphone in my hands 20 years later in front of you," Santoro said to the crowd at Court Suzanne Lenglen. "Those were extraordinary and fantastic years that I will never forget," he said.

Santoro has played in a record 67 grand slam tournaments, making the fourth round three times - at the French Open in 1991 and 2001 and at the Australian Open in 1999.

"Twenty years. That counts for something in a lifetime," Santoro said. "It has been a long road, a fantastic career. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot."

Santoro and Rochus started their match on Tuesday, but it was suspended by darkness with the Belgian leading 5-3 in the fourth set. The pair came back out onto the court after Dinara Safina's easy win and finished the match quickly.

Santoro plans to play other tournaments before retiring at the end of the year.

Besides tying Francois Jauffret's record for appearances at the French Open, Santoro also holds the record for the longest match in the Open era.

"That was in 2004. A match lasting 6 hours, 33 minutes on this same court," said Santoro, who beat Arnaud Clement in the first round that year 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 16-14.


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