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No Mercy For Bercy — Why The Paris Masters Can’t Persist Like This

Matt Zemek

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Richard Mackson - USA TODAY Sports

Paris Masters tournament director Guy Forget badly wanted Roger Federer to play in his tournament last year, with Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka trying to heal from injuries.

Rafael Nadal played… and then had to withdraw after two matches.

That was 2017.

The 2018 Paris Masters are showing even less mercy toward the athletes in Bercy.

Federer agreed to play in this year’s tournament, but Forget and everyone else in Paris did not get to see him play on Wednesday… because Milos Raonic withdrew due to an injury.

Nadal withdrew before his first scheduled match against Fernando Verdasco. (Merry Christmas, lucky loser Malek Jaziri, who defeated Verdasco to move to the round of 16 and notch a career-high ATP ranking.)

Marton Fucsovics withdrew before his round-of-32 match against Fabio Fognini. Thursday’s Federer-Fognini match will involve two players who did not hit a single ball in the round of 32.

Richard Gasquet looked 57 years old against Jack Sock on Wednesday. His body was French toast.

John Isner experienced breathing problems in his match against Mikhail Kukushkin.

Year after year after year, Bercy doesn’t attract as many of the top players as other Masters 1000 events do… and in the years when the big guys do travel to Paris, as was the case this year, they are often in less-than-great physical shape (Nadal) or are tired (Federer having just played Basel, which always comes the week before Bercy on the calendar).

This is not even a debate anymore — it is plain reality: Bercy is annually affected by attrition, either in pullouts and withdrawals or in the decisions of players to not even come to France in late October.

This is a broken tournament within a badly arranged tennis calendar.

No, I don’t expect tennis to do something about it. No, I don’t expect the sport to reform the ways in which it does business. No, I don’t expect tennis players — as a group — to make any meaningful push for change in relationship to this tournament.

Nevertheless, it does have to be said, even if it is — as a matter of current politics — highly unlikely: Something has to be done about Bercy. It doesn’t work.

I understand that the major tournaments are not going to change places on the calendar. Australian Open organizers want their tournament to occur during Australia Day, a national holiday. Similarly, the United States Tennis Association wants the U.S. Open to wrap around Labor Day weekend to get huge holiday crowds to the National Tennis Center. As long as those two tournaments won’t move, the rest of the calendar offers minimal opportunities for movement.

Yet, Bercy — more than the other eight Masters tournaments — needs to move. Moreover, it has a better justification for moving since it occurs at the end of a season and therefore isn’t stuck.

You can’t really move Canada or Cincinnati — those are the summer U.S. Open lead-in events. They will continue to be where they are. It is similar for Madrid and Rome as Roland Garros lead-ins. As long as the Australian Open remains in January, the Indian Wells-Miami double will remain in March.

Bercy, though? There is a little more flexibility here, or at least the possibility of a reconsidered position on the calendar.

The easiest option: Move Bercy one week back to give Federer (Basel) or anyone who plays in Basel or Vienna a week off. Move the ATP Finals and Davis (Pique?) Cup a week back. Adding one week to the tennis season is not TOO much of a sacrifice for making Bercy an event a lot more players can realistically play. Moreover, the whole point of the “New Davis Cup” (Pique/Kosmos Cup, informally) is to open up more weeks on the calendar. Bercy, by being less stuck than other tournaments, can move around a little more.

The other option which makes conceptual sense — at least to a greater degree than other possibilities — is to put Bercy in the spot currently occupied by Rio, Marseille and Delray Beach on the ATP calendar. It is three weeks after the Australian Open, two weeks before Indian Wells. This would hurt both the Rotterdam and Dubai ATP 500 events, which means that shipping those tournaments to the Bercy spot in late October and early November would be the tradeoff. It would be easier to move Rotterdam, an indoor event, to late October. Dubai might be moved up one week to occupy the slot currently filled by Rotterdam.

You might object to aspects of those calendar moves, and that’s fine. These are imperfect solutions given the fact that playing a full week in Bercy, then flying to the United States for Indian Wells, represents a relatively quick turnaround. However, what seems impossible to deny at this point is that Bercy’s current place on the ATP calendar is an unmitigated disaster.

Let’s not have this anymore. Let’s change.

I doubt it will happen, but this has gotten old. No one — including Guy Forget — is having a good time.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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