Tim Henman and Andrei Pavel faced off for the 2003 Paris Masters title.
Having ended 2002 ranked inside of the Top 10, Henman missed the opening month of the 2003 season due to injury and posted inconsistent results upon his return. In fact, it wasn’t until June that he reached at least the quarterfinals at a tournament, when he advanced to the last four at Queen’s Club on grass then followed that up with another quarterfinal at Wimbledon. When it was time to prepare for the US Open, he won his first event of the summer hard-court season in Washington, but then struggled again, culminating with a first-round loss in New York.
Looking to end his ’03 campaign on a high note, Henman played the Paris Masters tournament, where he had never gone past the third round, despite it being played in quick conditions that suited his serve-and-volley style. Unseeded, the Englishman went on one of the best runs of his career, beating Sebastian Grosjean after losing to him twice on grass that summer; topping former world No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten; and knocking off two of the year’s Grand Slam winners, Roger Federer and Andy Roddick, to reach the final. In the championship match, he’d face Pavel, who was working his way back from injury. Down to 191 in the rankings, the Romanian did some damage of his own as he beat three seeded players to reach his first final in more than two years.
Despite coming into the match with fewer accomplishments under his belt, Pavel did have one advantage over Henman: He had won a Masters event before, taking the title in Canada in 2001. Henman, meanwhile, was generally regarded as one of the best active players to have never triumphed at that level. They had only faced each other once before six years earlier, with Henman winning that contest, and the world No. 31 picked up where he left off in Paris, taking the opener 6-2 in the best-of-five-sets match.
In the second set, Henman found himself serving for a commanding lead at 5-4, but Pavel rallied to force a tiebreak. The mini-frame looked like a sampling of the set as a whole as Henman again missed some opportunities while leading 6-4. He rebounded from that, though, to clinch the tiebreak 8-6. Another tiebreak would determine the third set as neither player could make headway on the other’s serve. This time, Henman made sure there wasn’t a repeat of the second set: Up 6-2, he struck an unreturnable serve to clinch the title, the biggest of his career.
Pavel reached his first final on carpet, the fourth different surface he played on for a title in his career after clay, hard and grass courts.
Henman’s win marked the fifth time in his career he won two titles in a single season.
The last time two unseeded players reached the final was 1988, when Amos Mansdorf defeated Brad Gilbert.