First-Time Winner Spotlight: Benoit Paire
Paire, No. 24 on the Emirates ATP Rankings in 2013, was sidelined for eight months due to injury and saw his ranking dip outside the Top 100. With the win on Sunday, he is set to return to the Top 50 and becomes the sixth first-time champion on the ATP World Tour in 2015.
Paire spoke with ATPWorldTour.com after his victory.
How does it feel to win your first ATP World Tour title?
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.
Was winning an ATP World Tour title a goal you had growing up as a junior?
I watched tennis on TV growing up, and I thought it would be incredible just to one day play one match at this level. It’s good to win one tournament, but I want to win more and make more finals.
You put together five wins to win your first ATP World Tour title against some tough competition, beating the top three seeds (Goffin, Robredo, Cuevas). What did you do well consistently during the week?
I felt good since the start of the week. In the first set of my first match, I won 7-6, and after that I played with a lot of confidence. I think Goffin was maybe a bit injured, he had some trouble with his back. But after that I managed to win against Cuevas and Robredo, two players who are very good on clay. I was aggressive and hit well, and I hope I can keep it up for the rest of the year.
This was your third career ATP World Tour final. Did you go in with a different approach after the final losses in Belgrade (2012) and Montpellier (2013)?
The main difference is that I won some tournaments this year, one ITF Futures and two ATP Challengers. So when I went on the court for the final I knew what to expect. I was a little bit less nervous than the other times.
In 2013 you finished a career-high No. 24 and won 32 matches before falling out of the Top 100 (at No. 118) last year due to injuries. What was your mindset going into this season and after this week do you feel you’re playing at the level in 2013 (at No. 24)?
I didn’t win any tournaments when I was No. 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.
Now that you’re back in the Top 50, do you feel you could get back to where you were two years ago?
Of course. In the beginning of the year I was No. 118, now I am Top 50 and don’t have any points to defend. So for sure I want more. But I will have to play every match like I did today, focused and mentally tough.
Do you feel now, at the age of 26, you’re going to play your best tennis?
I hope so! Now I see the game differently. And look at Tommy Robredo, he’s still playing great at age 33. I’m only 26, so I hope I’ll have a chance to win more.
You have compiled consistent results on hard and clay courts. What do you feel are the strengths of your game?
Mentally I feel much better now. When you’re injured at home and you cannot move, and you watch tennis on TV, all you want to do is to come back on the court. So that’s been a difference for me.
Talk about the state of French tennis with four players in the Top 20 (now eight in the Top 50)
French tennis is very good right now. Sure, we don’t have any Top 5 players, but if you look at Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray, you see that it’s not easy to climb that high. But with [Gilles] Simon, [Jo-Wilfried] Tsonga, [Gael] Monfils and [Richard] Gasquet, we have a very strong group. It’s a good thing for me, since it will take some pressure off. I can be loose and play my game, and not worry so much about expectations. But I want to climb the rankings and be part of that group.
Who are the players you looked up to and admired growing up?
It was definitely Federer. And before that maybe Marat Safin. Mentally maybe we are a bit similar. I’m not comparing myself to him as he is a much better player than me, but he was one of my favorite players.