Going into the 44th and last ATP tournament of the season, there was a great deal at stake for several of the Rolex Tennis Masters singles participants. When play began on October 29th for the 36th time at the Accor Arena, in Bercy, a Paris suburb, there was vibrant “Look ahead excitement…”
Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, Andrey Rublev (Neutral), Taylor Fritz of the US and Hubert Hurkacz of Poland were competing for the two spots still open in the eight-man Nitto ATP Finals Singles draw. In the Men’s Doubles three slots were still to be filled at the Year-End Finals.
As it turned out, Holger Rune of Denmark had an “Eradicating Week” eliminating Hurkacz, seeded No. 10, 7-5, 6-1 in the second round and Rublev 6-4, 7-5 in his next match. Frenchman Gilles Simon, who was playing his final career tournament, lived up to the wild card he was granted defeating Fritz, seeded No.9, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 in the second round.
Rune’s storybook run benefitted, in the quarterfinals, when No. 1 seed Carlos Alcaraz was forced to retire after losing the first set 6-3 with the score 6-6 in the second. (Later it was revealed that Spaniard had suffered an internal oblique muscle tear on his left side and would be sidelined for a minimum of six weeks.) Auger-Aliassime, seeded No. 8, was next to fall. He was on a 16 match win streak but his tank ran dry and Rune triumphed 6-4, 6-2.
His “Why Stop Now”…success continued when the 19-year-old dispatched Novak Djokovic, the No. 6 seeded Serbian, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the final to earn his first Masters 1000 trophy.
(A “Rune” is a mark of magical significance and the Charlottenlund resident, who defeated five players ranked in the Top 10 on his way to the title, had it throughout the week. In addition, on Monday, November 7th, he joined his former junior doubles partner Alcaraz, as a member of the ATP Top 10.)
The doubles was just as fascinating, since there were three slots left in the “Trip to Turin Lottery”. Once all the points secured by teams during the year had been verified on the ATP abacus the winner of the semifinal contest between Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Austin Krajicek of the US, the No. 8 seeds, and the German duo Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies squared off in a last opportunity contest to punch a ticket for Italy… After a 6-3, 6-4 victory, Dodig and Krajicek set about making their travel arrangements.
Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Great Britain, the No. 2 seeds, closed out a spectacular year downing Dodig and Krajicek, 7-6, 6-4 in the championship round. With the Rolex Paris Masters title, along with Madrid and Montreal, Koolhof and Skupski scored a Masters 1000 trifecta in 2022 and also claimed four other ATP doubles championships during the season.
Gilles Moretton, who became Fédération Française de Tennis President in February 2021, teamed with countryman Jean-Louis Haillet to defeat the British Lloyd brothers John and Tony, 7-6, 7-6 in the 1979 tournament doubles final.
From 2003 until 2009, Cédric Pioline was the Rolex Paris Masters Co-Tournament Director with Yannick Noah. This past February he was named Tournament Director. In 2002, he and Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten were 6-3, 7-6 Doubles finalists to Nicolas Escudé, (now the FFT National Technical Director) and Fabrice Santoro.
Rolex Paris Masters take-aways…
Beginning in 2006, Gilles Simon played the Rolex Paris Masters 17 times. His best showing was in 2012 when Jerzy Janowicz of Poland slipped past him 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals. His career concluded at the 2022 championship with a 6-1, 6-3 third round loss to Auger-Aliassime.
Simon turned professional in 2002 and will be 38 on December 27th. Born in Nice, he is now a resident of Boulogne-Billiancourt, an exclusive Paris commune. He won 14 singles titles and in January of 2009, he reached his highest ATP ranking-No. 6.
He was a dedicated tennis laborer winning a total of 504 matches. Opponents realized that he could never be overlooked… He always provided a test…at times, it was one that could be daunting.
No matter the surface, Gilles Simon was always “a tough out…”
In the second round, Matthew Ebden of Australia and Jamie Murray of Great Britain surprised the No. 3 seeds Marcelo Arévalo of El Salvador and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands, 3-6, 6-3, 10-5. It was Murray’s 500th career victory. Lloyd Glasspool of Great Britain and Harri Heliövaara of Finland ended the season for Ebden and Murray in the quarterfinals, 6-3, 7-6
The Rolex Paris Masters settled who would participate in the ATP Nitto Finals, taking place November 13-20 at the Pala Alpitour Arena located in Turin’s Olympic Park.
The singles contestants will be – Felix Auger-Aliassime, Novak Djokovic, Taylor Fritz (who replaced Alcaraz), Daniil Medvedev (Neutral), Rafael Nadal of Spain, Casper Ruud of Norway, Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitipas of Greece.
The doubles teams will include – Arévalo and Rojer; Dodig and Krajicek; Glasspool and Heliovaara; Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios of Australia; Koolhof and Skupski; Nikola Mektić and Mate Pavić of Croatia; Rajeev Ram of the US and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain.
The Rolex Paris Masters brings the ATP tennis year to an exciting close. Holger Rune ran the table and from current indications, he has the potential to age as well as the tournament has over time…
Title photo of Holger Rune by Victor Joly