The Artistry Of Benoit Paire: 'Sometimes It Works, Sometimes Not'
There are few players like Benoit Paire on the ATP Tour. From forward-facing half-volley tweeners as he rushes the net to drop volleys with incredible touch, the Frenchman has talent oozing from his pores.
“That’s why I play tennis: to have fun on court, to enjoy, to try some hot shots,” Paire told ATP Uncovered presented by Peugeot.
Watch Incredible Paire Drop Volley:
Entering last season, he owned only one ATP Tour trophy and a 47.7 career tour-level winning percentage (180-197). But the Frenchman enjoyed one of the best years of his career in 2019, triumphing in Marrakech and Lyon.
“It was a long season, very good for me, two titles. Since this tournament in Marrakech with confidence, with everything, we were able to make a good season,” Paire said. “Then a new title in Lyon, so honestly for me it was a very good season.”
Paire’s peers respect the Frenchman’s abilities. Not only does he have sensational feel, but a lethal two-handed backhand. Those weapons helped him climb as high as No. 18 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in 2016. He is currently World No. 22.
“I think he’s great. He’s even better than he thinks he is,” said Gael Monfils, Paire’s countryman. “I think last year, to get back in great shape and win a lot of matches and actually two titles, I think it was a great achievement.”
Paire’s journey goes back to when he began playing tennis at six. His father used to work at a club next to their home. At that time, professional tennis was far away.
“I watched tennis on TV growing up, and I thought it would be incredible just to one day play one match at this level,” Paire told ATPTour.com after winning his first ATP Tour trophy at 2015 Bastad.
That came after one of the most devastating blows of Paire’s career. On 17 September 2014, he underwent left knee surgery and missed the rest of the season. In his second tournament back the following January, he dropped down to the Futures level.
Knowing the difficulties of dealing with an injury, Paire put his tennis in perspective.
“It’s very important to enjoy when everything is fine on court. It’s never easy to play tennis for four, five years in a row,” Paire said. “After my surgery, in 2015, I had to work a lot to think about what to do to enjoy more on court, to be more calm, and that’s what I did.”
When Paire won that first title, it only ignited his hunger.
“It’s good to win one tournament,” Paire said at the time. “But I want to win more and make more finals.”
Paire has won two titles and reached three finals since. While his shot selection — choosing a tweener half-volley rather than a conventional one — might sometimes seem misguided, it’s that fun nature of the Frenchman’s game that helps him play his best and endears him to fans.
“Sometimes it’s working, sometimes it’s not," Paire said. "But I will try more for 2020.”
The 30-year-old, who made this year’s Auckland final, is playing some of his best tennis ever. When he’s at his top level, Paire is as entertaining as anyone.
“Benoit brings a lot to the game. He’s talented. He has a personality, and we need it,” said former World No. 8 Sebastien Grosjean. “As a player, he has a strong personality. I think he’s great.”