November 2, 1986: The day Becker won inaugural Paris-Bercy Open

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On this day in tennis history, world No 2 Boris Becker won the first-ever Paris-Bercy Open against Sergio Casal in the final.

What happened?

On this day, November 2, 1986, Boris Becker won the inaugural Paris-Bercy Open. The German defeated the world No 100 Spanish qualifier Sergio Casal 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 spot.

The players involved

Boris Becker was born in 1967. 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 up to the net, earned him the nickname “Boom Boom”. He was famous for his spectacular diving volleys, as well as for his dramatic play and emotional outbursts. After his record-breaking triumph at Wimbledon, the German confirmed his status by claiming the title in Cincinnati, beating Mats Wilander in the final, 6-4 6-2. Finishing the year as world No 6, he 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 world No 1 Lendl in straight sets in the afinal (6-4 6-3 7-5) and was now the second player in the world. After claiming another title in Toronto against Stefan Edberg (6-4, 3-6, 6-3), he arrived at the US Open as the heavy favourite, along with Lendl, but he was upset by Miloslav Mecir in the semi-finals (4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3). 

The Spaniard Sergio Casal was born in 1962. He turned pro in 1981, and he reached his first final on the tour in 1983, falling short against Mats Wilander in Aix-en-Provence (6-3, 6-2), while finishing the year as world No 70. A year later, after a terrible 1984 season, he was out of the top 200, but in May 1985, he claimed his first and only title as a qualifier in Firenze, defeating Jimmy Arias in the final (3-6, 6-3, 6-2). He was more successful in doubles, where he had already accumulated 8 titles, partnering fellow Spaniard Emilio Sanchez.

The place

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

The resumption of the Paris Indoor event attracted five top 10 players : Boris 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 the two previous weeks, in Sydney (defeating world No 1, Ivan Lendl, in the final, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-0) and in Tokyo (where he beat 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 dropping 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 of the tournament. The Spaniard had gone through the qualifications, before defeating John McEnroe in the quarterfinals (6-3, 7-6). During this match, the former world No 1 had one of his most famous tantrums, when he yelled at the umpire (amongst other compliments) “ 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 three sets, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6. Although Casal didn’t play a bad match, the German was 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 postpone defeat. It was impossible to break his serve.”

“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,” said Becker, referring to his previous tournaments in Australia and Japan. 

The newly established Paris-Bercy Open had a prestigious winner to start its history.

What’s next?

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).

With his friend Emilio Sanchez, Sergio Casal would go on to win two Grand Slam titles (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.

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