Paper planes thrown on the courts and players booed for any old reason, the BNP Paribas Masters has long been one of the hottest tournaments in the world. From this point of view, the first edition in 1986 had set tone. Here’s why.

Paper planes thrown on the courts and players booed for any old reason, the BNP Paribas Masters has long been one of the hottest tournaments in the world. From this point of view, the first edition in 1986 had set tone. Two great chair umpires had then suffered traumatizing episodes that changed their careers forever.

 

McEnroe vs. Leconte and Noah vs. Boris Becker. Every Grand Slam would have dreamt of such an impressive last four. Bercy, for its first edition, could have had this chance. But that Friday 31st of October 1986, quarterfinal day, things didn’t go exactly as planned. And the first victims of that dark day were the umpires. The American set the tone early in the afternoon against an almost unknown Spanish player who usually played in doubles: Sergio Casal. When the latter won 7-6 in the third set, eliminating McEnroe in the process, the umpire had to pay the bill.

 

The target of McEnroe, the inflexible British umpire Jeremy Shales. Prominent figure of the tour, became world famous at Wimbledon six months earlier for making Jimmy Connors flee to Boca West, he was guilty on that 31st of October, according to the American of “not making the right decisions in the decisive tiebreak”. Fired up by an audience eager for violence, the player didn't fail to make this clear. Excerpts: "You are the worse umpire that I've ever seen! You will never arbitrate me again! Understood!" Shales would continue to officiate until the early 2000s, but that game will mark a turning point in his career. After Bercy, he would always be more confined to supporting roles. As for McEnroe, more anecdotal, he was suspended for 42 days.

 

«They’re shiting their pants, they don’t know where they are!»

 

Three hours later, the French Patrick Flodrops, who had yet seen many nasty things over the past 10 years at Roland Garros, was the a victim of stress overdose after a stormy match between Yannick Noah and the American Tim Mayotte. At 5/7 and 5/5 30-A, Flodrops asked to replay a point won by Noah because of the announcement - very shy - of a line judge on the French's service, yet largely "in". Ready to serve, Noah didn't understand. The public neither. The VIP booed from their boxes. Spectators in the back, more direct, took their horns. In two seconds everything changed. "What! We have to replay the point?" Noah had enough. And said, "Shit! Fuck! Throw them out if they don't have the nerves. Throw them out! Line judges shit their pants, they don't know where they are!" Defeated 7/5 7/5 two minutes later, Noah refused to shake hands with Patrick Flodrops.

 

The latter left the court under public uproar. And then would live, by his own admission, the worst experience of his career, "While I was going to the umpires' office, an old and vociferous man jumped on me and shook me violently, he insulted me and tried to hit me. I waited, the arms behind my back to show that I didn't intend to fight back, and that if there was a problem, I would be innocent. Very shocked, I stayed prostrated in my office alone for a while after the incident." Moments later, Patrick Flodrops announced to the Umpire Jacques Dorfmann that he would never officiate on the tour again! If two days later, he officiated during the final between Boris Becker and Sergio Casal, he indeed never relented.

 

By Julien Pichené