Each week, Baseline will take a look at a player who has thrived at one of the stops on the ATP and WTA tours during their career. (Photos: Getty Images)
Despite all of their amazing accomplishments, Roger Federer and Andy Murray each only have one Masters title in Paris to their credit. They’re a step ahead of Rafael Nadal, who, despite thriving at the other major tournament in the city, has never triumphed indoors in the neighborhood of Bercy.
It’s been far from a near shutout of the ATP’s Big 4 there, thanks to the stellar run of Novak Djokovic, who has won the title five times—more than anyone in the history of the tournament.
Making his debut at the event as an 18-year-old back in 2005, the Serb—ranked No. 85 at the time—reached the round of 16, a run that included a win over Mariano Puerta, that year’s French Open finalist, for one of his earliest Top-10 victories.
As his ranking rose, though, over the next several years, Djokovic had his struggles at the tournament, going 1-3 from 2006 to 2008. His fortunes changed in 2009: After losing in the semifinals at the US Open, the world No. 3 caught fire during the fall. Entering Paris with titles in two of his three previous events, he dropped only set on his way to the final, then defeated home favorite Gael Monfils in a third-set tiebreak to clinch the championship.
Djokovic’s attempt at a title defense ended early, when France’s Michael Llodra stopped him in the third round in 2010. A year later, as he was wrapping up one of the greatest tennis seasons of all time, Djokovic was forced to withdraw from the tournament before his quarterfinal match. With another early loss in 2012, it appeared that the Serb was as vexed in his efforts to win the title as his elite peers.
What happened in his next several appearances, though, set a new standard for excellence at one of the most prestigious tournaments of the fall. Djokovic won the 2013 title, defeating David Ferrer in the final, then defended his championship by topping Milos Raonic in his last match. He completed the three-peat in 2015 with yet another impressive run, knocking off Andy Murray in the final.
The next couple of years were marred by injury, but a healthy Djokovic reached the final again in 2018 before being upset by the young Russian, Karen Khachanov. On a mission to reclaim the crown, the world No. 1 stormed to the final in 2019 without dropping a set, then continued his near-perfect run by beating Denis Shapovalov for the title.
Djokovic missed the 2020 tournament, having clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking. Whenever he does return to Paris, it will be hard to discount him among the favorites as he looks to add to his record-breaking title haul.