An exceptional line-up at the 56-draw graced this year’s Paris-Bercy, where the top 16 seeds represented the best in the world. With only three remaining spots for the “Nitto ATP Finals” (successor of “Masters”) it was a fierce competition. The semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas secured his place in the elite event with his 300th win, while Alexander Zverev also punched his ticket with two hard-fought victories. A remarkable new face in the best eight & Parisian defending champion, Holger Rune, joined the mix, winning two matches to claim the final berth.
The week began with three more players in contention for Turin: Hubert Hurkacz, who managed to win three matches despite weariness from Basel (he surpassed 1,000 aces in a season as the 9th player in history); Taylor Fritz, who won his first match but had to withdraw due to an abdominal injury; and last year’s Turin runner-up, Casper Ruud, being subdued in his opening match.
The veterans faced a challenging week, with players like Stan Wawrinka, Gaël Monfils, Richard Gasquet, and Andy Murray, all in their mid/late 30s, suffering heart-breaking losses, including squandered match points. Murray’s defeat was particularly bitter as he succumbed to Alex de Minaur for the second time in the fourth quarter of the season, despite leading 5:2 in the final sets. De Minaur had theoretical chances to qualify for Turin if he had won the title, but it was a long shot.
It was a tough event for the local players again. Among seven Frenchmen, only Ugo Humbert progressed to the second round, and he played a dramatic, longest match of the week, lasting 3 hours and 29 minutes, only to fall to Zverev. Paris is known for its late matches, and Jannik Sinner became a victim of this schedule. His match started after midnight and finished at 2:36 a.m. With another match scheduled in the afternoon, he had little time to recover, particularly after playing five demanding matches in Vienna the previous week, and he concluded the withdrawal would make sense for his fatigue body.
Grigor Dimitrov appeared to have played the tournament of his life. Although he had won his two big titles in 2017 (Cincinnati and London), he didn’t face a Top 10’er in Ohio and avoided the best guys in the world at the O2 Arena, which is unusual for “Masters” events. In Paris, he also notched five wins, managed to eliminate three Top 10 players, two of them in closely contested battles (6-3, 6-7, 7-6). However, he ended the week in tears as he found himself struggling in the final against one of his two toughest opponents, Novak Đoković, who claimed the Parisian title for the seventh time. Đoković’s dominance continues, and he now competes more with his own records than anyone else.
Since the inception of the “Mercedes Super 9” in 1990 (the predecessor of the “Masters 1000”), the Paris-Bercy tournament has been held either as the ultimate event of the regular season or in the penultimate week. Nonetheless, it’s the most crucial event for securing the last spots in the season-ending event featuring the world’s top eight players. That year, with a 48-draw, there were still two berths to be secured, and the following six players were in contention: Thomas Muster (he withdrew due to injury), Richard Krajicek (he suffered a shocking second-round exit; it was later revealed that he had knee problems that sidelined him for five months), Cédric Pioline (despite being in the form of his life, he couldn’t handle the pressure of facing the French crowd favorite, Henri Leconte, in the second round), Boris Becker (he had to defend his title, but he lost in the quarterfinal to his French opponent and the partisan crowd); there were also two 193 cm tall players from newly formed Slavic countries in 1991 (Croatia in June that year and Ukraine two months later), namely Goran Ivanišević and Andrei Medvedev. They needed tie-breaks to survive their opening matches and met in the final. For Medvedev, this meant qualification to the “Masters” as the first player raised in the Soviet Union… The event marked the first time Ivan Lendl was unseeded since 1980! The Czech, representing the United States, received another blow after the draw; he had to play against one of his toughest opponents from the young generation, David Wheaton, and lost in 70 minutes without being able to create a break point. Jim Courier needed to progress two rounds further than Pete Sampras to replace him at the top of the men’s rankings but failed, losing his opening match (there was only a 31-point difference between them in the ATP rankings). In a trivia note, French players with similar surnames, Guillaume Raoux and Lionel Roux, faced each other for the first time and produced the most one-sided match of the week (Raoux won it 6-2, 6-0). The record for serve speed at the time was held by Marc Rosset, who hit 215 kph at Wimbledon a year before, however, in his third-round match, Todd Martin served 5 kph faster. The serve landed ‘out,’ so it couldn’t be counted as a new record.
In the second leg of the South American swing, Alberto Berasategui triumphed in São Paulo to claim his maiden ATP title. The 20-year-old Basque, who used the same side of the racquet for his forehand and backhand, was an underestimated revelation of the second half of the year. He was almost entirely focused on playing on clay (with an exception for the US Open), which helped him climb from no. 95 to 36, thanks to small ATP events as well as two Challengers in the process. The following year, Berasategui’s clay-court talent exploded in Paris, where he easily outplayed six consecutive opponents to reach the French Open final.
Paris (Masters 1K; hard indoors)
(1)🇷🇸Novak Đoković d. 🇧🇬Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-3
Paris ($1.9M; carpet indoors)
(10)🇭🇷Goran Ivanišević d. (8)🇺🇦Andrei Medvedev 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(3)
Santiago ($164K; clay outdoors)
(3)🇪🇸Alberto Berasategui d. 🇨🇿Slava Doseděl 6-4, 6-3
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