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Safin Names Toughest Opponent

The Magician blew Marat Safin’s mind.

Former world No. 1 Safin cites Frenchman Fabrice Santoro as his toughest opponent.

More: Bartoli's Comments Draw Ire

The 47-year-old Santoro, whose sleight of hand skills and deceptive two-handed strokes off both sides earned him the nickname “The Magician”, won seven of nine career clashes vs. Safin.

In a Roland Garros video interview with Daniela Hantuchova, who partnered Santoro to the 2005 Roland Garros mixed doubles crown (the trophy is visible over her shoulder during the interview), Safin said Santoro gets under your skin.

“Well not only on clay, [Fabrice] Santoro [was my toughest opponent],” Safin said. “Yeah, I lost to him all the time. I lost to him nine times and I won only two. He’s a really good player and the way he reads the game is amazing.

“And if you don’t really know in good shape and you don’t really know how to play against him it gets you, you know, under your skin. He knows exactly what you’re going to do. And so it’s like he plays with my mind.”

Santoro, who owns 18 victories over players who held the world No. 1 ranking, famously rallied from two sets down sweeping 12 of the final 13 games to stop Safin at the 2001 Roland Garros.

Safin's two career wins over Santoro match his career victory output against 20-time Grand Slam king Roger Federer and 17-time major champion Novak Djokovic yet no one terrorized Safin like Santoro.

“Being told I would play Santoro was being told I was to die,” Safin once said.

Safin has fond memories of French fans.

“To be honest, I would say the French crowd was really nice to me all the time,” Safin said. “Really unbelievable. Even though playing against the French guys, I played against [Sebastien] Grosjean at Roland Garros. I played against [Paul-Henri] Mathieu in Bercy."

Photo credit: Australian Open Facebook