Paris-Bercy Tennis Tournament: A Unique Experience
The Enigmatic Annex Courts
Entering the immense Bercy hall and its 15,000 seats in tennis configuration is always a unique experience for laymen. It must be said, without any chauvinism, it looks great, with its gigantic stands, absence of light strips, and its nightclub sound system. But what is even more important is to go in search of the two short annexes, n°1 and n°2. Or even, to begin with, to imagine them. A bit like the threatening legends that we tell to children so that they deign to finish that damned pumpkin soup, we have often been told about the existence of these extraordinary courts, without ever being able to figure out how to find them. Well, let’s say some simpletons from the sports department, others, however, know it.
“You have to see it to believe it,” says a colleague in the press room. So, this year, it’s decided, armed with our best determination, a bottle of water and some provisions (just in case), we’re getting started. “So, do you see center court? You have to walk along the field, turn right, then right again, cross a long corridor. Then it’s on the left, you cross another red corridor, and then…”. And then suddenly, on two back doors facing each other, the signs “Court n°1” and “Court n°2”, hallelujah my brothers, we were not lied to!
If court number 1 is already quite surprisingly small, what can we say about its counterpart next door, where doubles matches are usually played? Barely 600 seats, a 15-meter high ceiling against which bullets regularly smash, not to mention the slightly intimidating black piping and its incessant ventilation noises. It’s not complicated, it’s like Batman’s underground gym in Gotham City, except with water leaks (true story).
Facilities Criticized by Players
Note that the recriminations are not new. Already in 2014, the Spaniard Tommy Robredo had rebelled: “It’s low, it’s small, it shouldn’t be court number 1 of a Masters 1000.” For his part, a few years later, it was Nadal’s turn to take a shot at the Parisian structures. Those of training, relocated at one time in annexes of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, located opposite the AccorHotels Arena, the Spaniard obviously never having had to play on courts 1 and 2.
“The facilities of previous years were a little difficult for everyone, even for the organization, but also for the players,” he judged. You had to go to different places to train, it wasn’t easy. It’s a Masters 1000 and when you’re a Masters 1000, you have to have facilities that match. » Today, a giant inflatable bubble was installed near the Accor Hotel Arena, to prevent players from having to go and squat in Bruno Lemaire’s cellar.
Finally, after years of tolerance, the ATP finally seems determined to shake up the organizers, who are working behind the scenes to find the best possible solution so as not to lose the Masters 1000 approval. It seems unlikely that this will happen – in modern history, only Hamburg has seen itself demoted from Masters 1000 status to ATP 500 status, with the economic consequences that go with it. According to the latest information from The Team, the La Défense Arena hall would hold the rope for a first tournament by 2025, even if there remain a certain number of technical constraints to be resolved by then.
“We Love Coming to the Bercy Side Courts”
Therefore, must we resolve to accept this adaptation to the ever-increasing constraints of players and the ATP, not to mention the pressure of a country like Saudi Arabia, which dreams of itself, with billions and dollars ultra-modern infrastructures, hosting a new Masters 1000, without even flinching and taking out the forks? Does the Bercy tournament deserve to be wiped off the map and from history on the pretext that the others, eager for ever more gigantism, to the point of resembling grand slams, are superior to it?
We asked Ugo Humbert the question, after his victory (on the central) against the American Marcos Giron. “I understand that the ATP has different expectations, but for me Bercy remains a legendary tournament,” he declares. I used to come here when I was young and I always found that there was something special here. Just saying “I play Bercy” does something. I hope we stay in this place because I am very attached to it. » This is also what we hope for from the Accor Arena and the Paris City Hall, both of which have assured our colleagues of Parisian that developments were planned for 2025, with the installation of large additional courts in the Parc de Bercy, in order to correspond to the ATP criteria. Despite this, and to their greatest surprise (and anger), the FFT has already moved on, with the announcement of the partnership with Paris La Défense Arena (located in Nanterre, Hauts-de-Seine) next December.
“We Love Coming to the Bercy Side Courts”
On the public side, unsurprisingly, the trend is also towards conservatism. Crossed at the end of the match on court n°1 between Benjamin Bonzy and Dusan Lajovic, Stéphane, 30 years old from Bercy on the clock, is angry: “I am absolutely against that, I have been coming here for thirty years, this room is the emblem of this tournament, it is not for nothing that we talk about the Paris-Bercy tournament! I would be really sad to have to go to Défens or elsewhere, I find that the atmosphere here is really special and I don’t know if we will find that elsewhere. » For Hugues, who came accompanied by his son, nothing will replace the charm of these short scale models.
Even if it means risking your eyeballs: “Here we are in direct contact with the players, it’s great. Two years ago, Arthur (his son) almost took a serve from John Isner in the head, the ball went straight through the net and there was a mark on the seat right next to us! », he laughs. At his side, the boy smiles, nods and adds: “In terms of the feeling of the game, it’s incomparable, we are much more aware of the speed of the ball, the speed of movement of the players compared to Central. I don’t know how to say it, it makes it less superficial. It would really piss me off if he relocated it, we love coming to the annex courts at Bercy.”
Adapting to Changing Formats
Changing location and infrastructure would also, perhaps, ultimately imply adapting to the expanded formats of other Masters 1000s around the world, all of which will count by 2025 (with the exception of Monte-Carlo and Paris) 96 players in the final draw, compared to 56 at Bercy at present. Another change which is not to the taste of our unworthy father: “We like this format with 56 players because from the first round you are guaranteed to see the cream of the crop, with big matches, all that for a cost, not trivial but relatively moderate. Even if you don’t know the table in advance, you can buy a day ticket for the first round knowing that you’re going to see some great people. »
“Here there is a real closeness with the players, and as it remains a Masters 1000, they all remain more or less big players, you can find yourself with top 15 or top 20 in the world in these hangars, that
Diego Mayel Ibarra
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Diego Mayel Ibarra