at the Bercy tournament, “we come to see hard rock! »

In year I after the reign of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz is, at the height of his 19 years, the new world number one tennis player. Who would have bet on such a meteoric rise of the young Spanish conquistador, winner of the US Open in September? Certainly not the majority of regulars at the Bercy tournament.

During the 2021 edition of the Parisian Masters 1000 (the most prestigious category on the ATP circuit after the Grand Slams), Carlos Alcaraz lost in the round of 16 to Frenchman Hugo Gaston. However, the native of Murcia was leading five games to zero in the second set… before conceding seven games in a row! Each of his unforced errors is then celebrated as a goal scored in a football stadium until the outcome (6-4, 7-5 defeat).

“It’s never easy to play with the public against yourself and this match proved itthen testified the vanquished. I knew it would be difficult to deal with such an atmosphere, but I hadn’t imagined it would be so heavy. » Conversely, French players take advantage of this electric atmosphere to win prestigious victories.

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At Bercy, Michaël Llodra has two singles semi-finals (2010 and 2012) and a doubles victory with Arnaud Clément (2006) to his credit. On the fast surface he loved, the Parisian devoured a skewer of top names: Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Nikolay Davydenko, John Isner… “With the public behind you, you feel like you are growing wings! »testifies the one who has never been ranked among the top 20 in the world during his career.

“Tennis is sometimes a circus game”

In 2021, former tournament director Guy Forget said he felt ” compassion “ towards Carlos Alcaraz at times when the latter was under pressure from the Parisian public. But the rest of the story should be remembered: “Tennis is sometimes the circus games with two gladiators who compete. »

If the ocher color of the clay court at Roland-Garros is reminiscent of the sand of the arenas, be careful not to mistake it: to imagine an ancient amphitheater in Paris, the best thing is still to remove your panama with ribbon and enter Bercy. We rewind.

1988: Henri Leconte is booed from start to finish of his match against John McEnroe, the French public having not digested his speech after his lost final at the Porte d’Auteuil a few months earlier. 1996: also whistled by his own public, Cédric Pioline offers an arm of honor in response to his detractors. The same year, Boris Becker compares the Parisian hall to a “zoo”. Subsequently, even Roger Federer (in 2003) and Rafael Nadal (in 2008) will be entitled to their whistles, among others…

For Michaël Llodra, it’s very simple, the public at Roland-Garros and that of Bercy have no ” nothing to see “. More subdued, the first would come to see stars when the second would be more passionate. Former director of the Bercy tournament, Jean-François Caujolle offers a different sociological perspective: “Passionate people, I think there are as many. On the other hand, people come for different reasons…”

Two tournaments, two contexts. One is played in the best of five sets (for men), on clay, in the open air, in a mosaic of courts, for a fortnight. The other is concentrated over a week, in a closed room, therefore darker, with a format of three sets maximum and sharper exchanges due to the speed of the surface. From there, Jean-François Caujolle convenes the musical genres: the Porte d’Auteuil would be situated in the classical; in another register, he assures us: “At Bercy, we come to see hard rock! »

David Guetta came to liven up the tournament

On the world tennis circuit, all the scenes are conducive to a racket ending up in pieces like a guitar at the end of a concert. But at Bercy, in the only indoor Masters 1000 on the ATP circuit, the proximity between the players and the stands sometimes gives rise to exchanges beyond the limits of the court.

Six years ago, while serving, Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka turns to a noisy spectator in the front rowin this case… the former environmentalist senator Jean-Vincent Placé: “Do you mind if we play a game?” No, but seriously, it’s midnight, if you don’t want to see, you go home. » An attack applauded by the public of Bercy.

Back to the mid-2000s. At the time, the “second” Parisian tournament was losing its luster. Many players complain about the surface, which is prone to injuries, when others prefer to take it easy after a trying season. Consequence: the public deserts the tournament.

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Jean-François Caujolle then took control. First, you have to change the carpet. “We asked Federer the question, he told us that he liked the surface of Vienna. So, we put the surface of Vienna. » Then create a show around the matches. DJs David Guetta and Martin Solveig come to mix during the tournament; the players enter the court under the effects of strobe lights. And the public responds. “It has become a real American show”, sums up Michaël Llodra. To the delight of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, winner of the 2008 edition.

Since then, the facelift of the hall – changed from red to anthracite – in the 2010s, coupled with an improvement in the acoustics, has accentuated the electric touch of the Parisian scene. Not resentful, Carlos Alcaraz is one of the headliners of the 2022 edition at the Accor Arena. It remains to be seen whether he likes hard rock…

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