Cedric Pioline: This Year’s Paris Rolex Masters A Success

Cedric Pioline (photo: Christophe Guibbaud / FFT)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, November 7, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

From the beginning of the traditional end of the Rolex Paris Masters tournament director’s press conference on Sunday afternoon, Cedric Pioline was in an upbeat mood. He had plenty of good news to share – and that was even before Danish teenager Holger Rune completed his dream week of beating five straight Top-10 opponents – including six-time champion Novak Djokovic, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, in the final – to win his first ATP Masters 1000 crown.

First, the 37th edition of the Rolex Paris Masters at Accor Arena in Bercy was a success in terms of the number of tickets sold – 164,000 – which set a record. It exceeded the pre-pandemic best of 152,000 tickets sold set in 2019.

“We are very satisfied with this,” said Pioline, who took over as tournament director of the Rolex Paris Masters last March. He also pointed out that having 17 of the Top 20 players competing – including World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, World No. 2 Rafael Nadal and six-time Paris champ Djokovic – helped generate a lot of interest plus the emotion of the final matches of French sentimental favorite Gilles Simon‘s career.

“The added value, the icing on the cake, was the emotion, the emotion with Gilles Simon, because he played his last matches here,” said Pioline to a small gathering of French reporters, translated into English. “It was his last tournament. I think he was true to the wild card that was offered to him with the third round, with a beautiful run in the draw, and then afterwards the ceremony, and all the emotions that we all felt that were tangible.”

According to Pioline, the 2022 Rolex Paris Masters will be remembered not only for its good tennis but also its good humor, hospitality, service and friendliness.

“The idea was not to fix something that wasn’t broken. This is why the guideline was to improve the entrance show with added colors. I think it worked well,” Pioline said. “We even went further, because as you have seen during the week, because that was announced before each match through one of the new partners. … Well, the public had the possibility to vote on three different types of music through an app, and that was what I wanted.

“I wanted to make the tournament more immersive, more interactive, something that apparently was liked by everyone because people actually choose what they want, and the majority vote will opt for the type of music between rock, electro music and symphonic music. I think this is something that was strong, that was liked by everyone.”

While the number of fans who filled the 15,609-seat Court Central at Accor Arena throughout last week set new attendance records – and the intimate Court 1 and Court 2 venues were always full, too – if the tournament is to grow in size, it may need a larger venue.

“We have a draw of 56 players, and with 56 players we have three match courts that are compulsory and three practice courts that are compulsory. The bigger the draw, the more courts we need. We will need more capacities and bigger facilities,” Pioline admitted. “So, we will have to do an evolution, to do this evolution, we have an indoor structure. It seems very complicated. I do not want to say it’s impossible, but it’s very complicated, because this does not exist to have in a single venue more than four or five courts. If we were to have a draw with 96 players, we should have eight match courts and eight practice courts on the venue. Sixteen courts for one draw – well, two draws, males, females, and doubles, from both sides.

“So, it’s a mini-Grand Slam format, very close to a Grand Slam format. Closer to Grand Slam than a Masters 1000 than what we have now.”

Pioline added: “For these reasons, we do not consider going into that direction, but we have to grow. This edition is a good milestone, because it shows that we are full. During the first days when the doors opened, the people would actually run in the halls to go to Court 1 and Court 2 to have a seat, because the capacity is what it is. They wanted to make sure to have the right seats.

“So, how can we grow? These are the subjects that will come up. The deadline that we have is comfortable, but it’s also tomorrow. It’s 24 months. It will come fast.”

Pioline said that looking ahead, there are some changes the ATP Tour will be making with regards to the Masters 1000 series, something which he admits forces the Rolex Paris Masters to ask themselves how they can be more competitive – especially being the only Masters 1000 event that is played indoors.

“We want to see how we can improve ourselves, how we can upgrade our product,” Pioline said. “Bearing in mind that everything that has been set up, well, once the players arrive on the court, then it’s beyond our control. We can’t control the duration of the match. But everything that is around that normally we can actually control that.

“In terms of spectator experience and satisfaction, we want it as high as possible so that next year we can have this same momentum. This is what matters to us.”