THREE FAMOUS FRENCH WINS AT THE PARIS MASTERS
The 2018 Paris Masters is a special time for the event, which celebrates a half-century of pitting the best men’s tennis players in the world against one another.
Last year’s champion Jack Sock earned a place in the season-ending ATP finals with victory over Filip Krajinović in the final, and the American will aim to defend his title after a season plagued by injury and lack of form.
The list of past victors reads like a who’s who of tennis greats, with Novak Djoković, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi all lifting the trophy.
However, there has been a paucity of homegrown winners: just three Frenchmen have ever won the Paris Masters – or the Paris Open, as it was known before the advent of the Masters series – but those victories have been memorable ones.
Guy Forget was the first French name on the trophy after more than two decades of overseas dominance, and his victory came back when the final was still a five-set affair.
1991 was a breakthrough year for Forget, who had reached his first ever Grand Slam quarter-finals at the Australian Open and then Wimbledon, but he still faced a tough challenge against Pete Sampras.
The American had dropped just two sets en route to the final – a tie-break against Goran Ivanišević in the third round and the first set against semi-final opponent Michael Chang – and was seeking revenge after losing to Forget in the final of the Cincinnati Open earlier in the year.
Forget took a tense opening set 11-9 in the tie-break, only for Sampras to battle back to win the next two.
It would end up going right to the wire, though, and when Forget converted his third match point the clock was just 15 minutes short of the four-hour mark. As finals go, it qualifies as an epic.
It was another full decade before we saw another French winner, and once more it was a future world number one on the receiving end.
Sébastien Grosjean has regularly been a nearly-man in grand slams, reaching four semi-finals but no finals, but two of his four career singles titles have come on home soil.
After managing to avoid any seeds up until semi-final opponent Tommy Haas, Russian star Yevgeniy Kafelnikov was waiting in the final.
Kafelnikov had slipped a little from the world number one ranking he had held in 1999, but was playing his fifth Masters Series final while Grosjean was embarking on just his second.
Grosjean was flying, however, having dropped just one set all tournament, and he saw off his opponent 7-6, 6-1, 6-7, 6-4.
The third and final Frenchman to win the Paris Masters title is another who, like Sock, has struggled with an injury-hit 2018.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has plenty of fantastic results to his name, including five Grand Slam semi-finals and a run to the 2008 Australian Open final, but success in the French capital will have been very sweet indeed.
Tsonga took on David Nalbandian in the final, with the Argentine looking to become the first ever player to successfully defend the title – in fact, Nalbandian had dropped just three sets in two years in the competition, two of those three via tie-break.
The pair traded sets in only the second final since the move from best of five sets to best of three, and the defending champ was looking in good shape. However, Tsonga would not let him seal the deal – a 6-4 final set win saw the Frenchman set up a near-decade of uninterrupted European victories which would only come to a close when Sock triumphed in 2017.
It hasn’t been the best year for France on the ATP tour, with the country failing to produce even a single grand slam quarter-finalist, but all hope is not lost.
Those Frenchmen who do enter the draw in Paris will be able to call on the successes of their predecessors – some more unlikely than others – as they chase a valuable win in their homeland.