In the middle of the 2000’s, French tennis organized its own Masters, during two editions. An initiative which hasn’t tried again since. This is why it should be.
To give Toulouse a real tournament again
In this story, the « pink city » seems to be laughing stock. Because the French Masters was destined to be played each year in Toulouse. This is how it happened in 2008 and 2009. However, the contract was signed for a minimum of three year, but the third edition never occurred. And Toulouse has been missing it terribly. Since the end of their ATP tournament in 2001 - which was replaced by the ex-Moselle tournament -, France’s fourth largest city has only organized a Future tournament. « Tennis fans enjoyed the atmosphere of the Toulouse ATP tournament, before it disappeared after the tragedy of the AZF factory, said Jean Gachassin, the president of the Midi-Pyrénées league at the time. The Palais des Sports has been rebuilt two years ago. It’s easy to access, it’s functional, it’s new. We have everything to succeed. » The only thing remaining was to redesign the court with no alleys, the same during the great New-York Masters between 1986 and 2002, but also in Frankfurt, Hanover, or Lisbon.
To enable the audience to discover outsiders
Yes, the French Masters was supposed to gather the best players of the country, the seven Frenchmen having won the most ATP points in the national tournaments (Marseille, Metz, Lyon, and the Paris Masters). Only renown players for the crowd, then ? Well, no. Because the eighth player was awarded a wild-card. In consequence, the organizers could choose freely. With this system, maybe Stéphane Robert could have been discovered and cheered on way before his thirties. Maybe the general public could even know the face of Jonathan Eysseric, the ex-world number 1 in the junior category, who had given Andy Murray a hard time at Roland-Garros, in 2008.
Moreover, like in any Masters, injuries are quite frequent. That’s how Josselin Ouanna and Adrien Mannarino have benefited from Richard Gasquet, Gaël Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Fabrice Santoro’s withdrawals to crash the party aged respectively 22, and 20. In 2009, it was Laurent Recouderc, who was world number 138, who had the chance to show himself in an edition which had seen Gilles Simon, Tsonga, Monfils and Gasquet all withdraw. To their immense pleasure.
To see a Masters won by a Frenchman
Of course, a French Masters can never replace the real Masters, which is also called the ATP World Tour Finals, but at least, it can enable us to forget about the French’s bad luck in this competition. Do we really have to remind you that no Frenchman has ever been able to lift that trophy ? And that, since the birth of the competition in 1970, only Sébastien Grosjean (2001) and Tsonga (2011) have reached the final, without managing to win the tournament ? Simon, the winner of the first French Masters against a Michael Llodra who had to withdraw because of an injury, can at least add that line to his personal record. The same goes for Julien Benneteau, who won the title a year later after defeating Arnaud Clément.
To combine business with pleasure
Holiday season, pre-season, while everyone’s at home…what better than a small local tournament between fellow countrymen to get prepared for the new season ? « « It’s really ideal before starting the Australian tour, said Marc Gicquel at the time. It’s better to have a tournament than multiplying the practice matches in Paris. At this time of the year, we need to play matches to find our pace. » A lot more intense than a training session, much less pressure than in any other ATP tournament, the French Masters could benefit everyone. And Yannick Noah could even end the show with a concert.
To compete with the Olympic Games
What do the Olympic Games and the national Masters have in common ? None of us give out ATP points. Yet, when you look at the matches played at the Olympic Games, it’s impossible to imply that it is an inconvenience. If the players are defending their countries’ colors, the French could compete for their region. And even Benoit Paire would be motivated. First, because the competition would be less intense. But also because in 2007 and 2008, the winner was awarded 80 000 euros in prize money. Which is 30 000 more than the prize money handed out to the olympic gold-medalist.