In the civilized world of tennis, the Paris BNP Paribas Masters has been since its creation in 1986 a joyful and noisy exception. Passionate, demonstrative, sometimes unfair, the public the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy can make players' life hell. Disliked and scorned, some players didn't hesitate to respond in their own ways to the catcalls. Between love and hate.
Henri Leconte (1988)
"I hope that you understand my game now." Even four months later, these words used during his speech of finalist at Roland Garros still didn’t work for the Parisian public.
Playing against John McEnroe in the first round, Leconte was living a nightmare. Booed from the beginning to the end of the match, the French saw the spectators taking side for the American. Hurt, he even asked for the referee Bruno Rebeuh to remind the public that: "it's a tennis match." A match lost in two sets by Henri Leconte. Bercy had its first victim.
Fabrice Santoro (1991)
November 1991 Yannick Noah was at the end of his career. Captain of the French Davis Cup team which soon had to face the United States in the final, but also a hit singer with "Saga Africa". Ranked beyond the 500th place in the world, Noah received an invitation for a final lap. Chance put on his way one of his players, Fabrice Santoro. Petrified to face the master, the young 19 years old went down pushed by a Parisian public that was supporting Noah loudly. "In Lyon, it will be different for the final. The public will be with me, and the captain too," said Santoro in the aftermath, not aware yet that Noah would pick Leconte instead of him.
André Agassi (1992)
Recent winner of Wimbledon, Andre Agassi played in the first year round an opponent who played a game he couldn't stand: Brad Gilbert. Cotton balls and incessant changes of pace, Gilbert blew up the Kid of Las Vegas. The versatile public of Bercy abandoned its idol and even started to boo him. Wiped out 6-1, 6-2, Agassi didn't lose everything. That day gave him the idea of recruiting Gilbert as a coach. He would do it two years after, with the incredible success that we know.
Goran Ivanisevic (1993)
Bercy doesn't always target the weak and the losers. In 1993, Goran Ivanisevic passed through the tournament with its destructive service. In the final, the Croat disgusted Andriy Medvedev with 27 aces and 32 service aces. Frustrated, the public eventually start to boo Ivanisevic on every unreturned service. "What they wanted was to see a match in five sets, said the winner after a final in three sets. But I have no interest whatsoever to play in five sets. They should watch the doubles final!" Given his speeding, the tournament direction made sure to slow down the matches shortly after.
Cédric Pioline (1996)
Before becoming one of its directors in the late 2000s, Cedric Pioline was one of the victims of Bercy and its difficult crowd. Defeated in three sets by Kafelnikov, the Parisian was hurt to be booed and shouted down by "his own" public. So he gave the finger to the crowd to make it very clear. "When I see things like what I've seen tonight, I'm not proud to be French," he said at a press conference.
Boris Becker (1996)
That same day, Boris Becker suffered the same fate as Pioline. Although three-time winner of the tournament, the German had no immunity to an audience ready to burn what it once loved. Booed during his defeat against Carlos Moya, Becker even went as far as to describe the Paris venue of a "zoo." "When I leave this tournament, I almost have to go to the hospital," he said, exaggerating a little.
Patrick Rafter (1997)
A widely appreciated Player, the Australian never experienced the boos and jeers to the Palais Omnisports. But against Cedric Pioline, Rafter was blinded just before serving by the laser pen of a rude spectator. The recent winner of the US Open complained to the umpire and a manhunt was ordered to find the culprit. Security took some time to locate and disarm him, Rafter could finally serve peacefully and qualify for the second round.
Roger Federer (2003)
The French love Roger Federer. The Swiss is as at home in Paris. But before true love he had to coddle Bercy and its tough crowd. Opposed to the eventual winner, Tim Henman, Federer left the court in a typical Parisian uproar. "The public can be very hard here," he admitted after his defeat. Chance or coincidence, Federer missed the following three editions without the public holding it against him. The advantages of becoming a legend of the sport.
Rafael Nadal (2008)
Black Friday at Bercy. While Roger Federer had just withdraw before his match against James Blake, Rafael Nadal entered the court to face Nikolay Davydenko. With a knee injury, the Spaniard managed to get rid of Gael Monfils on one leg in the previous round, but had to resign during this quarter-final after losing the first set (1-6). Hungry for tennis, Bercy booed the king of Roland Garros. Great prince, Nadal took the wrath of the audience upon himself and expressed his regret "for the people who had paid for a ticket."
Benoît Paire (2013)
After Leconte and Pioline, another example of Bercy eating one of its child. Defeated without much of a fight against Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Benoit Paire was booed by the crowd during the whole match. But the French isn't the kind to give the other cheek. He let loose in Press Conference: "People don't understand. They boo everything. They are morons. I am 26th in the world, what's their ranking? I need a holiday. I will go out every night and if people are interested, I'm going to Cancun!” Far from the eyes, the heart, and the boos.