Paris has never been kind to the man from Switzerland—Roger Federer.
For most people, when you say “Paris” and “tennis,” the mind fixes on the French Open because that is the most preeminent tennis event in France.
Roland Garros—more than most—was a venue filled with heartache for the Swiss Maestro as he continually battled to win that elusive missing grand slam title. Rafael Nadal refused to surrender the prize as Federer fought Nadal for the title five times—four times in finals and once in the French Open semifinals.
The one time Federer was able to seize the French Open championship was the one time Federer did not face Nadal in a French Open final. When Federer finally won at Stade Roland Garros in 2009—it was the year Nadal was dismissed by Robin Soderling in the fourth round.
Federer went on to win his only French Open championship that year.
In addition to Roland Garros, however, there is another tournament held annually in Paris—the BNP Paribas Masters which gets underway on Monday, November 7.
This year will mark Federer’s ninth try for the title. Paris remains one of the few Masters events that the Swiss has never won.
Federer’s Failed Attempts to Date
2000: Federer lost to Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia 6-4, 2-6, 2-6 in the first round of the Masters tournament in Paris. Unseeded at this tournament, the Swiss barely got his shoes laced before Paris shut him out for the first time—but certainly not for the last.
Prior to the start of the tournament, the two top seeds of tennis withdrew—the continuation of misfortune for a tournament scheduled at the end of a very long and brutal schedule. Both Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt withdrew, citing injuries.
2001: Federer lost to Jiri Novak of Czechoslovakia in the second round of the Paris Master’s event 4-6, 7-6, 6-7. Seeded No. 10, Federer had an outside chance to make the ATP year-end tournament in Australia, depending on his play in Paris.
The second-round defeat, however, eliminated the Swiss’ chance to make the elite-eight field at the end of the year.
2002: Seeded No. 8, Federer lost to world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the quarterfinals of Paris 4-6, 4-6.
After a bye in the first round, the Swiss defeated Xavier Malisse and Tommy Haas before losing to Hewitt. The win over Federer gave the Aussie a leg up on his goal to end the year ranked as world No. 1. Hewitt would go on to the Masters finals in Paris where he would lose to Russian Marat Safin. Safin won this tournament in Paris a record three times, tying him with Boris Becker.
2003: Federer lost to Brit Tim Henman in the quarterfinals 6-7, 1-6.
At this point in his career, Federer was hoping to end the year ranked world No. 1. Even though the Swiss won Wimbledon and the ATP year-end championship, Federer would be ranked No. 2 behind Andy Roddick, who had won the US Open that year. Henman would go on to win the Paris tournament in 2003.
2004: Federer did not play because a torn thigh muscle injury.
2005: Federer was out of Paris with a torn ligament in his right ankle.
2006: Federer opted out of competing in Paris citing fatigue. The tournament organizers were very unhappy.
2007: Federer lost to his old arch-rival David Nalbandian 4-6, 6-7 in the third round of the Paris Masters. This was Federer’s first time appearing in the annual Masters series tournament after missing three straight years.
Nalbandian had just defeated Federer eleven days before at the Madrid Masters series event. The Argentine went on to defeat Rafael Nadal—winning the tournament that year.
2008: Federer had to withdraw from the tournament after reaching the quarterfinals with a back injury—awarding a walkover for American James Blake into the semifinals.
Federer reported that his back tightened to such an extent he could not play, forcing him to withdraw from his quarterfinal match. Once again, Federer was shut out of the finals in Paris.
2009: Federer was shocked by Frenchman Julien Benneteau in the second round 6-3, 6-7, 4-6. It was an unbelievable loss—the No. 1 seed’s stay was over before it began. Federer had entered the tournament with very high expectations.
After a tremendous 2009 tennis season, Federer’s indoor campaign had not gone very well. The week before, Federer had lost his hometown tournament in Basel to Novak Djokovic. In Paris, the Swiss was dismissed by the Frenchman, ranked world No. 49.
2010: Federer advanced to the semifinals in Paris where he was upended by Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-7, 7-6, 6-7 in a thrilling match after holding five match points on his racket. Yes, five. Federer had multiple match points up 6-5 in the final set but Monfils saved them all to force a tiebreak, which he won 7-4. The pressure of playing in front of the pro-French crowd caused Federer to fold. It remains the furthest the Swiss has progressed at the BNP Paribas Masters.
2011: The Ninth Try
After winning the tournament in Basel for the fifth time, Federer is the No. 3 seed in Paris as action gets underway on Monday.
Seeded No. 1 is Novak Djokovic of Serbia while Andy Murray is seeded No. 2. Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the tournament, citing injury. David Ferrer has stepped in as the No. 4 seed.
While five players have already been declared eligible for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, three players have only their results in Paris to ensure their entry into the final eight. Federer, Murray, Nadal , Djokovic and David Ferrer are already in.
Of the top four, Djokovic is the only one who has won this tournament.
Fighting for the final three spots are Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Mardy Fish, Nicolas Almagro, Janko Tipsarevic, Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon. The fact that Juan Martin del Potro has withdrawn from Paris means his hopes of making the elite eight in London are finished.
Those players seeking entry into the year-end Barclays tournament will immediately face serious competition—as is always the case in Masters tournaments. For example, No. 9 Nicolas Almagro faces Nikolay Davydenko in the second round just as No. 14 Alexandr Dolgopolov meets a very difficult Phillip Kohlschreiber.
Frenchman No. 8 Gael Monfils will find himself face to face against the winner of the Michael Llodra-Feliciano Lopez winner, also in Round 2. Then too, American No. 7 Mardy Fish must get past the Radek Stepanek or Florian Mayer winner in the second round. No. 5 Tomas Berdych will face either Fernando Verdasco or Marin Cilic in Round 2.
Nobody said it would be easy.
It will be a challenge for any player to make it through to the final in Paris. Of interest will be a potential rematch between No. 1 Djokovic and Kei Nishikori, who defeated the world No. 1 in Basel. The two could meet in the the third round.
It will also be interesting to see No. 13 Andy Roddick take the court against the big serving Milos Raonic in Round 2. Additionally, it might also be a test for Murray to defend himself against the red-hot Marcel Granollers in the second round. Granollers just won the tournament in Valencia, mowing down a row of impressive seeds to get there.
For Federer, who comes in on the heels of victory, Dmitry Tursunov, Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon and/or Mardy Fish, to name a few—all stand in the way of the Swiss reaching the finals in Paris.
Will 2011 finally be the year that Federer finishes first in Paris? Wait and see.