November 15, 2018

Player Feature: France’s unpredictable Benoît Paire

The Stalk

Full Name: Benoît Paire

Birth Date: 8 May 1989

Place of Birth: France

Playing Years:  2007 to present

Highest Ranking: No. 18 (11 January 2016)

Formative Years

Benoît Paire is one of the biggest names in French tennis today. The current state of his career, however, is running in a coaster-like fashion.

Paire started playing tennis at the age of 6, being influenced by his father who is a hobbyist of the sport. The father and son tandem used to play at a small tennis club next to their house. The boy grew up idolizing Russia’s Marat Safin. His brother Thomas is also a tennis player whom he teamed up with at the 2017 Lyon circuit.

In 2007, Paire started his junior career at the Futures level in France, winning one event. In the following year, he was runner up in Futures 17 in Italy. By 2009, he saw his career blooming, after winning a title in Futures 3 in Slovenia, and reaching runner-up at the Great Britain Circuit. In the same year, he also became runner up in tours in Austria, Portugal, and Germany.

Professional Career

Paire received his wild card for the ATP World Tour in 2010, and participated in Grand Slam Tournaments. He beat Rainer Schüttler in 5 sets at the US Open after losing to  Feliciano López. By the end of the year, he reached the challenger finals at Romania and Spain.

In 2011, Paire made to the Top 100, winning 5 ATP World Tour level matches. In his debut in the Australian Open, he defeated Flavio Cipolla, and beat Gilles Simon at Rotterdam in the following month. By April, he broke in to the Challenger final in St. Brieuc, and made it to Nice in May. in his Wimbledon debut, he faced world No. 6 David Ferrer but lost in 1R. In July, he managed to reach two Challenger quarter-final, and advanced to 2R in Stuttgart. At the end of the year, Paire rose from world No. 112 to No. 94.

Paire improved significantly in the following year. In May 2012, he advanced to the finals of ATP World Tour at the Belgrade circuit. In addition, he made it to the semi-finals of Hertogenbosch and the quarter-finals in the Auckland circuit, as well as the quarter-finals of Casablanca and Basel. In the Grand Slam, he broke into 3R at Wimbledon, and 2R at Roland Garros, defeating Albert Ramos on the way. He also beat Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov at the US Open. By the end of the year’s season, he was named one of the most improved player, hopping from world No. 95 to No. 47.

Paire’s efforts had paid off as he finished to the Top 30 by 2013. In the same year, he reached the final of ATP’s new season at Montpelier. Additionally, he broke into the 3R at Roland Garros and Wimbledon during the Grand Slam. He also made it to the 1R of the Australian and US Open, and reached the ATP Masters 1000 in Rome.

By 2014, Paire lost his form when he broke his knee. He finished outside the Top 100 by the end of the season, with all his advances in the last two years wasted. He eventually made up for these losses in the following year.

In 2015, Paire made a dramatic progress in his career when he became the first player to win a Futures, Challenger, and ATP World Tour title all in a single season since Steve Darcis in 2007. In July, he defeated David Goffin in 2R at Båstad, and advanced to the 4R of the US Open for the first time, winning a match with world No. 4 Kei Nishikori in 1R along the way. By the end of the 2017 World Tour season, Paire jumped to No.19, bypassing almost a hundred levels from being No. 118.

Paire made further progress to his form when he broke into the semi-finals at Chennai and Marseille, as well as in Barcelona and Estoril in 2016. In the very start of the year, he was named world No. 18, his career’s highest yet. He was, however, lost in the Australian Open 1R by No. 328 Noah Rubin.

The Frenchman made further losses in the new 2017 season, being upset by much younger players such as Australia’s Alex de Minaur and USA’s Taylor Fritz.

By 2018, Paire fell to No. 53, struggling to keep pace. He advanced to the semi-finals at the Sydney circuit, but lost to de Minaur, whom he also encountered last year. He, nevertheless, beat Novak Djokovic in ATP Masters 1000 in the Miami 2R, and broke into the Doubles final with Roger-Vasselin.

Paire is currently in a constant struggle to make up to the losses of his career when he got kicked from the Top 20.

Style of Play

Benoît Paire’s tall and slim figure added to the flexibility and grace of his play. He was notable for his flashiness and unpredictability caused by the beautiful  inconsistency of his hits. Despite the risks of this play, he was able to pull off such strokes. For this reason, he came to be known as ‘La Tige’ (The Stalk).

His utmost strength is his rapid and spinny double-handed backhand paired with topspin backhands at greater speed and acute angles. He uses this style mostly to finish off points. His forehand, however, is relatively less strong, especially in defense mode.

By @FitsEly

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