As he raised his arms in triumph, there was a sense of relief that filled the tennis world–Benoit Paire had finally won an ATP title. It had taken the Frenchman eight years and two previous finals to claim his maiden title, but on Sunday the 26th of July, 2015, third time proved a charm. Now with a Bastad title under his belt, can the 26 year old turn the corner?
Often when you hear the name “Benoit Paire”, the word talented spring to mind. Possessing a wicked backhand and excellent feel for the ball, the World #42 has unquestionable weapons at his disposal. Unfortunately the word “talented” is often followed by words such as “inconsistent” and “head case”.
Barring the odd exception such as his run to the semifinals of the Rome Masters two years ago, Paire’s results have been… let’s say disappointing. Often criticised for a lack of effort, the Frenchman has until this point been unable to back up his talent with the required results. His best at a Grand Slam is a third round appearance at Wimbledon (which funnily enough is a tournament he hates with a passion) and he failed to really back up his impressive Rome run in 2013.
Paire would make headlines for the wrong reasons with his on-court antics being the focus of all conversations about the Frenchman. Whether it would be for an on-court bust up with Michael Llodra, smashing a racket while playing against Gilles Simon or tanking a challenger, the focus would be on “what will Paire do next” rather than his tennis.
A knee injury derailed the 26-year-old’s 2014 and sent the Frenchman plummeting outside the top 100. Paire was forced to play ATP Challenger events in order to regain his former ranking (his highest being #24), and after picking up wins in Bergamo and Quimper he was soon back inside the top 100. His ranking slowly climbed back towards the top 50 as the year went on, but it wasn’t until Bastad last week where Paire would finally re-establish himself amongst the best.
“I didn’t win any tournaments when I was #24, and now I did beating some very good players. At the beginning of the year, I was in a difficult situation, having been injured for eight months. The most important thing then was to play. I don’t care if I play well or not, it’s important to get on court and win some matches. I see tennis differently now. I don’t care as much whether I am playing well or not so well. As long as I am on the court and trying to get the win.” Paire told atpworldtour.com.
The Frenchman did not drop a single set on his way to the title, defeating the top three seeds David Goffin, Pablo Cuevas, and Tommy Robredo in straight sets. Where had this Paire been all this time? He was focused, hungry and motivated all week. His forehand, often labelled as one of the weakest on tour, was a weapon and his backhand was as huge as ever.
“It’s great to win in Bastad after reaching two finals. I’m very happy because a lot of people came out to watch the match. It’s great for my family and all the people who have been supporting me. The last months were not easy for me, being injured. A first title is an important moment for any player.” Paire told atpworldtour.com following his maiden title victory.
The 26 year old would go on to back up his victory by defeating Phillip Kohlschreiber in Hamburg earlier this week. Paire needed three sets to overcome the German, but his performance in the third set was simply sublime. The Frenchman came only seven points away from a golden set as he stormed to a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory.
It could be a potentially career changing few weeks for Paire, as he will now aim to break the top 20 for the first time in his career. The win in Bastad could lay the foundations for further success in the future if the Frenchman has indeed matured mentally. It is quite amazing how he goes from tanking in an opening round of a challenger event to winning an ATP title, but then again it is Benoit Paire. Expect the unexpected.
It will be interesting to see how the Frenchman will build on his maiden title success. Is this the start of Paire turning a corner and finally beginning to live up to his potential? Or will he got back to the Paire we have come accustomed to over the years? One thing is for sure, he will certainly enjoy his Bastad triumph.