The final ATP Masters event of the year takes place in late October in the French capital.
Played on indoor hard courts at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, what is now officially known as the BNP Paribas Masters has been a mainstay on the men’s tour since the dawn of the Open Era.
Although Paris has hosted the French Open since the late 1920s, the city did not stage an indoor competition until 1968. Milan Holecek was the champion at the inaugural event, and was soon joined on the roll of honour by many notable players of the era, including Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith and Ilie Nastase.
The tournament took a three-year break in the mid-1980s, and during its hiatus the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy was constructed in the 12th arrondissement. A major new venue for concerts, cycling, gymnastics and other sports, the 14,000 seater stadium was also a significant boon for the tennis event; since its return in 1986, Paris has been regarded one of the biggest and most prestigious indoor tournaments on the tour. In addition, its slot late in the calendar, just prior to the ATP World Tour Finals, makes it a high stakes event for players hoping to secure a place in the end-of-season championships.
Two men are tied at the top of the list of multiple champions at the Paris Masters. Boris Becker triumphed in 1986, 1989 and 1992, confirming his reputation as one of the best indoor players of all time. The German was also a two-time runner up.
The other three-time winner might be more of a surprise. Although it is often said that Marat Safin never did full justice to his talents, the mercurial Russian’s hat-trick of titles in Paris proved that he could be a dominant player on fast surfaces.
Among the group of popular double champions are Andre Agassi, who beat Safin in the 1999 showpiece match, and Pete Sampras, victorious in 1995 and 1997. Interestingly, the Paris Masters is one of the rare tournaments in which Tim Henman’s and Greg Rusedski’s achievements outstrip those of the current British number one, Andy Murray. Rusedski played the match of his life to beat Sampras in the 1998 final, while Henman won the biggest title of his career in the French capital in 2003. As of 2012, Murray has yet to get past the quarter-finals in Paris.
Safin def. Philippoussis, 2000 final:
Twenty-year-old Marat Safin had announced his arrival at the top of men’s tennis with an emphatic victory over Pete Sampras at the US Open 2000. In the Paris final later that year, he faced another big-serving giant in the 6’5” Mark Philippoussis, nicknamed “the Scud”. What ensued was a battle not for the faint-hearted. Philippoussis, with his trademark bullet serve on song, took charge in the first set, showing deft skills at the net to pile pressure on Safin and force him into making errors. In the second set, there was little between them, as Safin began to serve with more authority and showcase his superior movement around the court. In a dramatic tie-break, the Russian prevailed by nine points to seven to even the contest at one set all, but at 3-3in the third, he dived for a volley and almost literally knocked himself out of contention. Safin’s racket bounced off the court and sliced his brow, and he required an extended medical time-out to receive treatment. The incident affected Philippoussis’ concentration, and Safin took the third set 6-4. But the Aussie wasn’t finished yet, and, if anything, his level of play improved in the fourth set. Chip-charging during his opponent’s service games, he broke Safin to love and pushed the match to an incredibly tense decider. With both men stretched to their considerable limits, the fifth set also went to a tie-break. Safin looked exhausted and at times dazed, but managed to eke out a 6-3 lead, only for Philippoussis to claw back to 6-all. The Aussie saved two further match points, but when his final forehand went wide at 8-9 down, Safin raised his arms in elation and relief. With this, one of the hardest-fought wins of his career, he ascended to the top of the rankings for the first time.
Video: Safin v Philippoussis, 2000
Djokovic def. Monfils, 2009 final:
One of the most entertaining Paris finals of recent years was a contest between two of the sport’s great showmen. Novak Djokovic had beaten arch-rival Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, and faced crowd favourite Gael Monfils in the showpiece match. The Serb began the match in the same vein of form that allowed him to dominate Nadal in the previous round, whipping powerful forehand winners and keeping unforced errors to a minimum. Djokovic wrapped up the first set 6-2 in just 30 minutes, and had a comfortable 3-0 lead in the second, but Monfils was determined to give the local crowd something to cheer about, and he staged a superb recovery to take the second set 7-5. In the decider, Djokovic once again had the advantage, and twice lead by a break, yet the Frenchman refused to buckle, and fought back from 4-1 down to force a dramatic final set tie-break. With both men physically drained, it was Djokovic who proved stronger mentally, staring down his opponent and 14,000 raucous fans to take it by seven points to three and win his fifth title of 2009.
Video: Djokovic v Monfils, 2009
- Until 2007, the Paris Masters final was a best-of-five-sets match.
- Three Frenchmen have triumphed at the Paris Masters over the years: Guy Forget in 1991, Sebastian Grosjean in 2001, and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in 2008.
- In 2012, Jerzy Janowicz beat Andy Murray and Janko Tipsarevic to become the first Pole to reach a Masters series final.
- Having failed to get past the semi-finals in eight previous attempts, Roger Federer finally won the Paris Masters in 2011.
- The Palais Omnipsorts de Paris-Bercy is set to undergo a €100 million renovation in 2014, increasing the seating capacity to 21,000 and creating direct access to the stadium from the Bercy metro station.