Created in 1986, the BNP Paribas Masters holds its 30th edition this year, a more than respectable life in the world of Masters 1000, where many have ceased to exist. Top 5.

Created in 1986, the BNP Paribas Masters will celebrate its 30th edition this year, a more than respectable longevity in the world of tennis tournaments, which aren't "Grand Slams". In 30 years, several of its Masters 1000 counterparts (or whatever the term used at the time: Masters Series, Super 9...) have often been downgraded if not plain and simply ceased to exist. Travel all over Europe in search of those former great tournaments.

 

Stockholm (1990-1994)

A prestigious tournament, which has always been on the global agenda since the beginning of the Open era. With its triplet of national champions Borg - Wilander - Edberg, the event had its golden age from the mid 80s to the middle of the next decade. Its prize money even exploded after 1989, rising to 832 500 $ against 450 000 $ the previous year, logically attracting almost all of the world's elite. As a symbol, it was also the # 1 of the hierarchy, Ivan Lendl, who won the tournament that year. Boris Becker then robbed Stefan Edberg of a home triumph twice in a row before Goran Ivanisevic started to make aces rain there in 1992. Another champion of indoor courts, Michael Stich won there in 1993, before Boris Becker resumed his good habits in 1994. The sun then started to set gently on the career of Stefan Edberg... And on the glorious panorama of Swedish tennis. After reaching a total prize money of $ 1.47 million in 1994, the tournament drastically revised downward its prize money the following year ($ 800,000) and got back into line. The Enqvist, Bjorkman and Johansson then won all the titles they wanted: the best players only came sparingly in Stockholm from then on.

 

Stuttgart (1993-2001)

The 80s were Sweden's decade. The 90s were all about Germany. With Steffi Graf, Boris Becker and Michael Stich, world tennis then started to speak the language of Goethe. Taking advantage of the popularity of his protégé Becker, Ion Tiriac started the dynamics by working on the creation of a major tournament in Stuttgart. For three years, the time for Stockholm to lose its standing, 10 tournaments deserving the label "equivalent Masters 1000" took place, and the Stuttgart Indoors (not to be confused with the one that is played during the summer on clay) wasn't far from being the first of them with its $ 2,125,000 of prize money - only slightly less than the year-end Masters and its 2,750,000 $! The event obviously gave pride to the kings of indoor courts: Stich (1993), Edberg (1994) Krajicek (1995, 1998), Korda (1997), Enqvist (1999) all won there... And Boris Becker too, during the last fires of his career, in the fall of 1996, in five sets against Pete Sampras, a few weeks before their anthology final at the Masters. The tennis cycle in the city of Porsche ended in 2001 with the success of another local boy, Tommy Haas. But the big "boom" (Boom Boom even) of tennis in Germany was over, and the country which organized up to two Masters 1000, the Masters Cup and the Grand Slam cup that year, gave away all its jewels one by one...

 

Essen (1995)

Interlude: The Masters 1000 with the shortest posterity has to be Essen. It only had one edition, in 1995. And single tournament, single winner: Thomas Muster won the only title on carpet of his career, him who has only triumphed 4 times on other surfaces than clay in 44 success on the ATP Tour! That year, the King of clay eliminated Pete Sampras to general surprise in the semi-finals, before dominating another American in finale, MaliVai Washington, who will have his finest hour the following year by reaching the final of Wimbledon.

 

Madrid indoor (2002-2008)

The golden age of German tennis having passed and gone, Ion Tiriac therefore took his belongings and looked for the next favourable environment to invest. He chose Spain, then so attractive with its Moya and Ferrero... without being able to imagine the scale of the forthcoming jackpot following the Rafael Nada effect. But before moving near the Caja Magica and its brand new tennis complex, the Madrid Masters 1000 took place indoors for six years in the rocódromo multi-sports complex. Played mid-October, just before the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris (Same timings than Stuttgart then, as a memo reminding that the sustainability of the current Mutua Madrilena Open is linked to the presence of a local champion...), this indoor tournament in Madrid didn't last long but shows a prize list of most enviable: Agassi (2002), Ferrero (2003), Safin (2004), Nadal (2005), Federer (2006), Nalbandian (2007) and Murray (2008). With the exception of the Argentine, only Grand Slam champions.          

 

Hamburg (1990-2008)

Just like Stockholm, Hamburg is a historic tournament (created in 1892, only the two World Wars were then able to interrupt it!). Just like Stockholm, it experienced its heyday in the 90s. Just like Stockholm, it survived its devaluation and still exists today, as an ATP 500. Played on clay, its golden years correspond to those where it took place between April and May, in preparation for Roland Garros. However, the density of this calendar period, competing with Monte Carlo and Rome, as well as significantly different playing conditions than these other tournaments (and Roland Garros at the same time...), because wetter, gave it a quite divergent prize list from the three other giants of clay courts: Andrei Medvedev has made it his garden (1994, 1995, 1997), Roberto Carretero played there one of the greatest match in history (1996, the only time in his career where he passed the quarterfinals of a tournament on the big tour!), Tommy Robredo took advantage from the exhaustion of a duo Federer-Nadal who had  just played a Homeric final in Rome two days earlier (2006)... Fortunately, the event also has its credentials: Michael Stich thrilled the audience during the best year of his career (1993), Gustavo Kuerten defeated Marat Safin at the end of suspense (2000) and especially Roger Federer shone on hard or on grass courts, winning his first Masters 1000 (2002)... which will be followed by three other successes (2004, 2005, 2007). The Swiss even managed to beat Rafael Nadal in the final on the last occasion. The chapter "Masters 1000" tournament ended the following year, in 2008, when Nadal took his revenge on the master of the house.

 

By Guillaume Willecoq