The thirteenth edition of the Paris Open runs from November 2nd – 8th. The draw is made up of 48 players and all 16 seeds benefit from a bye in the first round. The prize money is established at US $2,550,000, with the singles winner taking home US $393,000 with the trophy.
Once again the level of competition is sky-high, as the last of the 37 players to make a direct entry into the main draw at the cut-off is Hicham Arazi from Morocco, ranked 43rd. All four 1998 Grand Slam champions are again in the draw: Petr Korda (Australian Open), Carlos Moya (Roland-Garros), Pete Sampras (Wimbledon) and Patrick Rafter (US Open).
The Frenchman Arnaud Clément, Dutchman Paul Haarhuis, Slovak Jan Kroslak, Italian Gianluca Pozzi, Swiss Marc Rosset and Australian Todd Woodbridge are through to the main draw from the qualifying round, which is again played within the POPB for the second year running.
Finally, wild cards are given to Frenchmen Arnaud Di Pasquale, Jérôme Golmard, Sébastien Grosjean and to Boris Becker. However, the German’s 11th and final appearance at the Open is short-lived; he bows out after his opening match, losing in three sets to Frenchman Nicolas Escudé.
Along with Becker, the first round proves to be fatal for other top players too: Enqvist, Chang, Ferreira and Pioline are all ousted at this stage.
On the other hand, the 13th edition of the Open unveils what is to be deemed 1998’s emerging talent, in the person of Arnaud Di Pasquale. His first success at Bercy comes when the young Frenchman defeats the Australian Fromberg, who is forty places above him in the ATP rankings. Unfortunately, the following round is not as rewarding for Di Pasquale, as Tim Henman gets the better of him, ending the Frenchman’s adventure. In total, three of the four Frenchmen left in the second round stumble and are unable to reach the third round.
The only French player to climb up to the round of 16 is Jérôme Golmard. But the opponent he finds here outclasses him: it is not only the world n°1, but also the title holder, Pete Sampras. Laudably, Golmard hopes to go all the way, beyond the first two sets to the first half of the third set, in which the Dijon-born Frenchman leads 4-1. However, the American fights back, winning the match 6-7 6-4 6-4.
All the same, this proves to be a difficult task for Sampras, whose back pain increasingly troubles him during the tournament. The matches involving other seeded players also prove trying, and eight of them are out of the draw even before the round of 16. The immensely talented n°1 player nonetheless hangs on, making his way up to the final – not without additional help from Todd Martin, who takes it upon himself to eliminate a few seeds in the top half of the draw.
Back with a vengeance after a serious elbow injury, Martin (n°26 in the ATP ranking) conquers Ivanisevic (n°12), then Rafter (n°3), and finally Agassi (n°5). Understandably exhausted from the effort, by the time he arrives in the semifinal Martin does not have the strength to be a real threat to Sampras.
In the bottom half of the draw, Kafelnikov, Rios, Henman or even Moya appear to be the favourite candidates for the final. But in fact, none of them will be able to stand in the way of “mighty” Rusedski. Little known until now to tennis followers in France, the neo-Brit truly is the revelation of Bercy and seizes, at the age of 25, the most prestigious title of his career.
Although defeated in the final (6-4 7-6 6-3) when he had been eager to obtain a third victory at Bercy, Sampras nevertheless makes the most of his results in Paris, gathering some precious ATP points which help him become the first tennis player in history to end the year at the top of the world ranking for the sixth consecutive season. Well done Mr. Sampras!