Two years after debuting at the Paris Masters in 2005, Novak Djokovic returned to the French capital as world no. 3. The young Serb came to Paris following the title in Vienna and the semi-final at the Madrid Masters, feeling exhausted and training only for a couple of days ahead of the season's last Masters 1000 event.
Novak met the home star Fabrice Santoro in the second round and experienced a tough 6-3, 6-2 loss in 69 minutes. The veteran outplayed the young gun in every segment, using the rival's lack of training and imposing his strokes.
Fabrice delivered his magic, dropping ten points in nine service games and keeping the pressure on Novak. Santoro kept his service games intact after denying two break points, and Djokovic failed to match that pace. The Serb struggled on the first and second serve, getting broken three times and propelling the Frenchman through.
Fabrice exploited his crafty slices, drop shots and net rushing to break Novak's rhythm. The veteran controlled the pace from start to finish, earning one of his finest wins at the home Masters 1000 event. Santoro pushed strong right from the start, creating break chances in the encounter's second game.
Djokovic stayed calm and erased them, avoiding an early setback. Fabrice produced a fine hold in game five and stepped in on the return in the next one, breaking Novak and moving 4-2 in front. The Serb served to stay in the set at 2-5 and forced the Frenchman's mistake with mighty forehands to extend the battle.
Fabrice served for the set in game nine, and Novak kicked it off with a backhand down the line winner. Santoro recovered and painted a down the line winner for 30-15. The young gun prolonged the game with a drop shot winner before the veteran wrapped up the set with a service winner for 6-3.
Fabrice imposed his strokes with crafty slices, constructing a break chance at the start of the second set with a down the line winner.
Novak Djokovic fell to Fabrice Santoro in Paris 2007.
The home star seized it with a volley winner at the net, embracing an early advantage and gaining a boost.
Djokovic cracked a backhand down the line winner in the second game, earning two break points in his only reliable return game. Santoro denied them and held with a backhand down the line winner for 2-0. The Magician placed a perfect lob winner in the third game, delivering his second consecutive break and extending the gap.
Flying over the court, Fabrice painted a running down the line winner in the sixth game, holding for 5-1 and forcing Novak to serve to stay in the match. Djokovic brought the seventh game home to remain in contention, and Santoro served for the win at 5-2.
The Frenchman emerged at the top with a volley winner at the net, celebrating one of his finest victories and sending the Serb packing. "I could not give my 100%; this was not even 30% of my possibilities. Fabrice deserved to win.
I'm still on medications, and I did not practice for a whole week. I only started practicing two days ago. Physically, I'm not feeling good at all. It's been a very long season, and I'm exhausted. I hope people will understand," Novak Djokovic said.