The Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy (POPB) was inaugurated in February 1984 by cyclists from the Paris Six-Day event. It hosted an exhibition tennis match in 1985, and then the first ever Open de Paris, from 27 October – 2 November 1986. The avowed aim of the event was for it to quickly become the biggest and most important indoor tournament in the world. The first winner was Germany’s Boris Becker, at the age of just 18 years and 11 months – by which time he already had two Wimbledon titles to his name. 82,117 spectators flocked to the event over the seven days, making the inaugural Open de Paris a success.
From the beginning of the 1990s, the tournament began to step up a level, with the world’s top players consistently appearing. Guy Forget was the first Frenchman to take the title, in 1991, after an epic five-set tussle over Pete Sampras (USA) in what was maybe the best final in the history of the tournament. The two of them would square off again a month later in Lyon, in an equally storied Davis Cup final.
In 2000, the tournament was rebadged as the Paris Tennis Masters Series. Russia’s Marat Safin was the first winner under the new name, defeating Australian Mark Philippoussis 8-6 in a fifth-set tie-breaker. The following year there was a second French success, courtesy of Sébastien Grosjean. In 2007, Argentina’s David Nalbandian defeated Rafael Nadal in the first "pared-down" final contested over the best of three sets (6-4, 6-0). The following year, a third Frenchman won the title – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga set the crowd alight, overcoming Nalbandian in the final and qualifying for the end-of-season ATP Masters in Shanghai in the process.
Indeed, this is one of the main features of the Rolex Paris Masters – since it is the final ATP Masters 1000 tournament of the season, it invariably decides where the last remaining qualifying spots for the ATP World Tour Finals will go. It can also be a crucial stage in the race for the No.1 ranking in the world: Pete Sampras (1995), Marat Safin (2000), Andy Roddick (2003), Novak Djokovic (2012) and Andy Murray (2016) were crowned world number 1 during the tournament.
The Rolex Paris Masters is run by the French Tennis Federation, with Guy Forget acting as tournament director since 2012. That was also the year with the most spectators, the record being set at 134,126 (including qualifiers).