Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon wonders whether Benoit Paire will ever get out of his funk.
These days in men’s tennis, the scale of despair is increasingly measured from 1 to Benoit Paire.
We could have put bets that the following would happen if we had found odds for it on a platform like Comeon Betting, but we never did. In any case, what had become something like a foregone conclusion was finally formally announced over the weekend. If and when the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics roll on this summer, Frenchman Benoit Paire will not represent France due to his “deeply inappropriate behaviour.”
The 31-year-old has been battling his demons, himself, the pandemic and just about any and every reason he could find on his way to a 1-9 record in 2021. But despite it all, as the current No. 4 Frenchman on the ATP World Tour, and the 35th-ranked player in the world, he would have certainly been worthy of trying to qualify for the Olympics.
What’s wrong with Paire?
In case you might have been living under a rock, Paire is in the midst of an all-time run of awful. Yes, there’s the 1-9 record, to go along with a 1-6 record last year after the return of tennis, but if only it could be just about the tennis played.
You see, not only is Paire playing, and losing, just about every single match but he’s barely even trying when he does play. Increasingly with time, his on- and off-court antics have overshadowed his poor play.
What antics, you say? Well, they started relatively harmless and funny but they’ve grown to become almost pitiful over time. Should we run through some of Paire’s biggest (read: lowest) hits? Well sure, let’s give it a little paragraph.
There was the time he insulted the Australian Open organizers at the start of this season, saying their treatment of players had been shameful. The numerous of games absolutely tanked, where, like, he barely if at all tried. How about the time when he was docked a point for spitting on the court at the Argentina Open? Beyond that, there’s been the countless comments online and off the court and, look, we think we’ve made our point pretty clearly no?
The pandemic problem
One thing that has stuck out for us with Paire is what he’s mentioned after losing in the first round at this year’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. He said that, “The circuit has become rotten. Winning or losing in such conditions, I don’t care. I no longer have the spark.”
In other words, Paire doesn’t care all that much for tennis; in 2021 in the middle of a never-ending pandemic, this might be the truest and easiest thing to relate to that he’s ever said. We’ve all responded differently to what’s been a really, truly difficult past year. Everything has sort of stopped, not sure if you’ve heard, as we’ve had to deal with thousands of deaths around the world.
Keeping your sanity through it all is quite the challenge—and it’s been quite the challenge for Paire. That’s okay and we should respect that it’s been especially tough for him.
Should the ATP step in?
We’re not quite sure the solution is for the ATP to step in however, at least not as long as his antics remain relatively minor. If this were a “normal” job (if such a job even exists anymore), then someone like Paire would be dismissed.
But what can the ATP really do here? Suspend the man even though he’s still qualifying to the events he’s well within his rights to qualify for? Setting this precedent doesn’t sit well with us.
Remember the 2016 Rio Olympics?
Perhaps the funniest thing here, if anything about this can be funny, is that this isn’t quite the first time Paire is shown the door at the Olympics. In Brazil five years ago, the French Olympic Committee dismissed Paire for staying away from the athletes’ village for too long.
At least this time in Tokyo, he’ll just stay home from the beginning. Hopefully, this can be the solace he needs.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG