By Wilfried Berghmans
Editor’s Note: this is a piece emailed to me by a long-time reader, who knows a lot about the sport from an analytical perspective, as well as from a more personal angle.
I used to go to Paris every year with my family earlier on when our kids were still teenagers.
It’s a very nice city to visit, not too far away from where we live, and we enjoy celebrating the Asian New Year there in the 13 department of Paris between ‘la place d’Italie’ and ‘la Porte d’Yvry’.
Those who know the city a little bit know that this ‘Porte d’Yvry’ is pretty close to the “Porte de Bercy’. Porte d’Yvry and Porte de Bercy follow each other when you travel by a car on the eastern part of the Boulevard Périférique, the ring around the city of Paris.
At Paris- Bercy, the last Master of the season takes place on an indoor hard court.
Some top tennis players have an apparent love affair with this tournament and every year they show up there to give it their best.
Djokovic is the best example of such a real relationship of love for the event. Since 2005, Novak has been present in this event every year without exception, and he won it four times in the process (2009, 2013-15). This season he unfortunately had to abandon because of injury; if not, he would have played.
Next in line comes Murray who likes to play this event as well. He won it last year in 2016 season, played the finals in 2015, the QF’s in 2014 and played it every year since he first participated in November 2006, with only one exception: the 2013 season; that year he won Wimbledon, but lost in the U.S. Open – QF’s and then only played Davis Cup, and withdrew from Shangai, Paris and the World Tour Finals.
What about the other two of the so called big four, Federer and Nadal?
Well, to be honest, their love for the Paris hard courts of Bercy seems ambiguous.
Federer didn’t play in 2004-2006, 2012, 2015 and this season he withdraws again. It seems like every time he wins a slam or more, he skips Paris and goes straight to the World Tour Finals. In Paris they can’t be really happy with that of course.
Nadal is another peculiar case. He has been more absent in Paris than present (played only 5 times prior to this season), and when present possibly hasn’t given his best: for illustrative purposes, he lost in straight sets from Wawrinka in the Paris 2015 QF’s (in two tie breaks), but ran all over him two weeks later in the RR of the World Tour Finals (6-2 and 6-3).
What about other top players, such as Cilic, for instance?
Cilic plays in Paris every year, with one exception: the 2014 season. In 2014 he won his first slam title, at Flushing Meadows, and jumps then from the 16th place in the rankings to the 9th spot. Two months later, in the meantime 8th in the rankings, he wins another title (ATP 250 Moscow), but falls back to the 9th spot in the race, nevertheless, one spot behind those who qualify for the World Tour Finals. However, Cilic could care less about his ranking, and why not, as he benefits from the rule that anyone who has won a slam and doesn’t belong to the top 7 of the Emirates ATP rankings at the end of season, does qualify for the World Tour Finals at spot 8. So Cilic decides to skip Paris, and concentrate on the WTF’s.
This summary shows you that some top players treat Paris-Bercy correctly while others don’t shy away of skipping it for personal reasons.