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Rediff.com  » Sports » Only Bercy offered mercy to these tennis stars

Only Bercy offered mercy to these tennis stars

October 28, 2013 09:06 IST

Mansdorf is the best ever singles player from Israel

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Bikash Mohapatra

The Paris Masters, the last big tournament of the regular calendar ahead of the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London, starts today.

Tennis aficionados will be aware that besides hosting the lone clay-court major, the French Open, Paris also hosts another big tournament – part of the Masters 1000 series – that is played indoors at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy.

And just like Roland Garros offered quite a few ‘other’ players – the likes of Yannick Noah, Andres Gomez, Albert Costa and Gaston Gaudio – a shot at Grand Slam glory, the Paris Masters, ever since its inception in 1986, is the lone major event that has been won by players who don’t exactly belong to the top coterie.

It took Roger Federer a decade to win the tournament. Rafael Nadal, so dominant at Roland Garros in recent years, is yet to win in the other suburb of Paris. And so is Andy Murray.

But for fringe players who perform consistently but struggle to win big tournament – where the big players usually dominate – the Paris Masters has provided succour.

A glance at the list of winners at Bercy will have eminent names like Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras and Federer.

At the same time it will also throw up names like Guy Forget, Greg Rusedski, Nikolay Davydenko and David Nalbandian, players who despite their high rankings failed to break the hegemony of the bigger stars at the biggest stage.

Bikash Mohapatra takes a look at a few such players, whose lone major title win came at the Paris Masters.

Amos Mansdorf (Israel)

Arguably the best men’s player Israel has ever produced, Mansdorf was a former top 20 playerM.

However, he didn’t many tournaments to justify his potential, and ranking. Mansdorf’s biggest success came about at the Bercy Arena in 1988, with a straight sets verdict over American Brad Gilbert. 


Image: Amos Mansdorf of Israel holds his trophy after winning the final of the Paris Open in 1988
Photographs: REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

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Grosjean could never justify his potential

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Sebastien Grosjean (France)

Sebastien Grosjean was one of the most promising players to emerge from France in recent history, and also one of the most inconsistent.

Despite reaching a ranking as high as No.4, Grosjean didn’t end up with many titles to justify his credentials. In fact, he won just four.

Grosjean’s biggest success came at the Paris Masters in 2001, at the expense of former French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov. 


Image: Sebastien Grosjean of France celebrates
Photographs: Phil Cole/Getty Images

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Henman reserved his best for the last

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Tim Henman (Great Britain)

Despite so much hype surrounding him, Tim Henman never quite proved himself to be worthy of it.

Touted as the next British hope, he did reach six major semi-finals, including four straight at the All England Club, but failed to cross that hurdle.

Despite reaching as high as No.4 in the rankings, Henman won just 11 titles in his long career. His biggest triumph came at this tournament in 2003, when he beat Romanian Andrei Pavel in straight sets in the final.

Coincidentally, Henman’s biggest career title also happened to be his last. 


Image: Tim Henman of Great Britain holds the trophy after his straight sets victory in the final against Andrei Pavel of Romainia
Photographs: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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Consistent but not quite effective

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Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic)

Tomas Berdych is one of the most consistent players in recent years.

In fact, the Czech is one of handful active players to have reached the quarter-finals of all the four majors.

However, for all his consistency, Berdych has secured just eight titles in a career that has spanned over a decade now.

The Czech’s biggest triumph was at the French capital, at an early stage in his career.

In the 2005 edition, Berdych took advantage of some favourable results to reach the final, where he managed to get it past Ivan Ljubicic in five sets.

It’s been eight years since, and despite reaching the final at big tournaments like Wimbledon (2010), Miami Masters (2010) and the Madrid Open (2012), Berdych has failed to convert the opportunity. 


Image: Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic holds aloft the trophy after his five set victory against Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia in the final
Photographs: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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Tsonga got past the defending champion that year

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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France)

One of the most-talented players in contemporary tennis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, on a given day, can get the better of any top player.

Having said that, those days are few and far between. That explains why his title count (10) isn’t commensurate to his immense potential.

Tsonga’s biggest moment of glory came about in this tournament in 2008.

The Frenchman utilised the home advantage well to best the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick and James Blake to make it to the decider.

David Nalbandian, the defending champion, wasn’t willing to relinquish his title just yet.

In a match that lasted for more than 150 minutes, Tsonga eventually won 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.


Image: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in action
Photographs: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

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Paris was a happy hunting ground for Soderling

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Robin Soderling (Sweden)

Robin Soderling, till date, remains the only player to beat Rafael Nadal at the French Open, having got the better of the Spaniard in 2009.

In fact, Paris has been a happy hunting ground for the Swede. Besides making successive final appearances at Roland Garros, Soderling won the biggest title of his career at the other corner of the French capital.

In the 2010 edition, the Swede beat the likes of Stanislas Wawrinka and Andy Roddick to make it to the final. There he denied Gael Monfils, who had upset Roger Federer in the earlier round, a win in front of his home fans.

Soderling thereby became the first Swedish player to win the Paris Masters since Thomas Enqvist in 1996, and the win ensured him a career high ranking of No.4.

The Swede has not played competitive tennis since July 2011, owing to injuries and illness, and it is highly unlikely that he will return to the tour.


Image: Robin Soderling of Sweden holds aloft the winners trophy
Photographs: Michael Steele/Getty Images

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It's an icing on Ferrer's career-best year

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David Ferrer (Spain)

David Ferrer can consider himself as unfortunate. For his career coincided with the likes of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray.

Had it not been for the presence of these players on the tour, the Spaniard would have been a Grand Slam champion by now. For Ferrer is undeniably as consistent as the names mentioned above, albeit not as talented.

Having said that Ferrer deserves credit for maintaining a top five ranking for so many years now, for making the quarter-finals of all the four majors – thereby proving his versatility as a player – and reaching the final of the World Tour Final (in 2007).

However, his biggest triumph came in at the Bercy Arena last year, when beat promising Pole Jerzy Janowicz 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

In fact, 2012 turned out to be the best year in Ferrer’s professional career, where he not only won a tour-leading seven titles but also led others on match wins.

And he has continued with his good form this year as well, reaching the final at Roland Garros and reaching a career-high ranking of No. 3 in July.

However, he will have a tough time in defending the title, as unlike last year all the top players, save Murray, are in the fray this time.


Image: David Ferrer of Spain celebrates victory against Jerzy Janowicz of Poland
Photographs: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

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