November 2, 1986: The day Becker won the inaugural Paris-Bercy Open
On this day in tennis history, world No 2 Boris Becker beat a qualifier ranked No 100 in the world to win the first of this three Paris-Bercy Open titles
What exactly happened on that day?
On this day, November 2 in 1986, Boris Becker won the inaugural Paris-Bercy Open. The German defeated Spanish qualifier Sergio Casal, ranked 100th in the world, in the final 6-4, 6-3, 7-6. For its first edition, the tournament organisers couldn’t have hoped for a better winner to promote their event as “Boom Boom” was at the peak of his celebrity status and was chasing Ivan Lendl for the world No 1 ranking.
The players involved: Boris Becker and Sergio Casal
- Boris Becker: The German teen with two Wimbledon titles under his belt
Boris Becker was born in 1967 in Leimen, Germany. In 1985, the German became the youngest-ever Wimbledon champion at the age of 17, edging Kevin Curren in the final in four sets (6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4). His powerful serve, which he often followed to the net, earned him the nickname “Boom Boom”. The German was also famous for his spectacular diving volleys and for his dramatic play and emotional outbursts. After his record-breaking triumph at Wimbledon, Becker confirmed his status as one of the game’s best by beating Mats Wilander 6-4 6-2 to win the Cincinnati title.
Finishing the year as world No 6, the teenager qualified for the Masters Cup where he reached the final, only to be outplayed by Lendl (6-2, 7-6, 6-3). With his great power, Becker successfully defended his Wimbledon crown in 1986, defeating top-ranked Lendl in straight sets in the final (6-4, 6-3, 7-5) and was now the second ranked player in the world. After claiming another title in Toronto over Stefan Edberg (6-4, 3-6, 6-3), he arrived at the US Open as the heavy favourite, along with Lendl, but was upset by Miloslav Mecir in the semi-finals (4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3).
- Sergio Casal: The Spaniard making a name for himself in doubles
Sergio Casal was born in 1962 in Barcelona, Spain. After turning pro in 1981, he reached his first final on the tour in 1983, falling short against Mats Wilander in Aix-en-Provence (6-3, 6-2) and finished the year as world No 70. A year later, after a terrible 1984 season, he was out of the top 200. However, in May 1985, Casal claimed his first and only title in Firenze, as a qualifier, defeating Jimmy Arias in the final (3-6, 6-3, 6-2). He was more successful in doubles, where he had already won 8 titles, partnering fellow Spaniard Emilio Sanchez.
The place: Bercy, Paris
The Paris-Bercy Open was held in 1986 for the first time at the 15,000-seat Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, which was unveiled in 1984. It replaced the former Paris Indoor Open, which was held from 1969 until 1982 at another venue, the Stadium Pierre de Coubertin.
The facts: Becker wins in straight sets
The resumption of the Paris Indoor event attracted five top 10 players : Becker (world No 2), Yannick Noah (No 5), Miloslav Mecir (No 6), Henri Leconte (No 7), and John McEnroe (No 10).
Becker had claimed two titles in weeks leading up to Paris – in Sydney (defeating top-ranked Lendl, in the final, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-0) and in Tokyo (beating Stefan Edberg, 7-6, 6-1). Despite this crazy schedule, the German didn’t seem affected by jet lag or fatigue, making his way to the final for the loss of only one set – in the semi-final against Frenchman Henri Leconte (6-2, 3-6, 6-3).
His opponent on the final day, Sergio Casal, was the surprise package of the tournament. The Spaniard had come through the qualifying draw and then defeated John McEnroe in the quarterfinals (6-3, 7-6). During this match, the former world No 1 had one of his most famous meltdowns, when he yelled at the umpire (amongst other things) “You are the worst umpire that I’ve seen in my life “, which would cost him a 21-day ban from the tour.
On Sunday, November 2, Becker held his rank and fired 22 aces to put an end to Casal’s run in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6. Although Casal didn’t play a bad match, the German proved to be just too strong. Interviewed years later by 15-lovetennis.com, the Spaniard recalled, “On such a fast carpet, with low bounces, Becker was invincible. Unlike my matches against McEnroe or Mayotte, I never felt like I had a chance to win, I could just delay defeat. It was impossible to break his serve.”
Becker said he did not believe he could win the tournament earlier due to his hectic schedule leading up to the event. “Under such circumstances, to fly all those many hours, the different continents, the different cities and different surfaces – let’s say I didn’t think I could do it.”
The newly established Paris-Bercy Open had a prestigious winner to start its history.
What next? Becker adds two more Paris titles
Boris Becker would triumph two more times in Bercy, in 1989 (defeating Stefan Edberg in the final, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3) and in 1992 (defeating Guy Forget in the final, 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3).
Meanwhile, Sergio Casal would go on to win two Grand Slam doubles titles with his friend and countryman Emilio Sanchez (the 1988 US Open and the 1990 French Open), and after their retirement, they would create one of the most famous tennis academies in the world in Barcelona, named the Sanchez-Casal Academy.