Benoit Paire is one of those players that some people may never have heard of while others make it a point to watch him everytime he plays. At age 23, the rising young Frenchman from Avignon has been having a good year so far – getting to the finals of Belgrade and reaching a career high ranking of No. 47 just a month ago but his recent lack success on the hard courts of America has Paire concerned heading into next month’s U.S. Open, his favorite Grand Slam.
To try and describe Paire’s style of play is well, tres difficile as the French would say. Paire is noted for whacking aces almost at a whim while at the same time tossing in elegant, if not always well-planned, drop shots with often winning results. That Paire doesn’t seem to have a well-thought out game plan each time he steps out on a court would be a fair assessment despite Paire having a full-time coach.
Then there’s his demeanor on court, something that can only be described as insouciant. Taking on Martin Klizan in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open, Paire did not look at all comfortable in his first match since taking an extended holiday after his early round dismissal in Washington. After being cited for ball abuse in the first set that he later lost, Paire continued expressing his frustration, first with a long diatribe in French to the umpire who thankfully spoke it as well, and then by smacking his racquet twice on the court after dropping serve.
Paire managed to force a tiebreak, but it was Klizan who played better down the stretch, chasing down several Paire drop shots that he then converted into winners. Klizan closed out the match 6-2, 7-6(4) leaving Paire to ponder his next move before New York.
While Paire may have an on-court persona that often leaves tennis watchers shaking their head in disbelief, Paire in an interview is quite charming and candid, even when dealing with his third straight loss in a row. It was a surprise that he accepted one and many players after a loss, often speak in grumpy monosyllables. But Paire, well he was quite chatty.
“During one month I don’t serve good, I don’t feel good and I don’t know how to fight,” Paire said. “That’s the most important to play tennis and that’s why I lose every time. Today there were five breaks in the match and my serve is very important for me. I don’t know what to say. At this moment it is difficult for me to play and I don’t know what to say.”
When asked how things go in practice, Paire said, “Sometimes I feel good and sometimes no. But when I get on the court, there is nothing. I cannot play. I can’t serve. I know it’s in my head but I don’t know what to change.”
Despite his lack of confidence, Paire lit up his mega-wattage smile when talking about his recent holiday to visit his girlfriend and about the gold necklace given to him by his parents that he always wears on court. Paire is looking forward to playing in New York where he had his first breakthrough at a Major in 2010 where he advanced from qualifying to the second round before losing to Feliciano Lopez in five sets.
“U.S. Open is the best tournament. It’s where I played good for the first time in a Grand Slam. And for me with all the buildings and everything it is for me the best tournament.”
Paire’s mercurial personality, on and off the court, may not be everybody’s cup of thé but he’s definitely worth watching at least once even if you are not quite sure, like himself, what the result will be.