Notorious tennis hothead Benoit Paire is back on the rage train.
The French star said just two months ago he’d had a light-bulb moment of clarity surrounding his trademark hissy fits on the court. And for two months, he was a model professional tennis player and admitted he was determined to keep his anger on the court in check.
But that was not the same Benoit Paire who stepped onto the court against Marcos Baghdatis in the first round of the ATP Tour’s Citi Open in Washington.
For all his talk of transforming into a calm, level-headed new version of himself, Paire’s inability to control his anger appeared worse than ever as he broke three rackets, brushed off several code violations and ultimately refused to contest the final point of the match as he fell 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 to Baghdatis.
The world No. 55 had appeared grumpy throughout the match and his emotions finally erupted late in the third set, when he fell over on the court while trying to chase down a Baghdatis lob that sailed over his head.
He smashed his second racket of the day while still sitting on the court.
He claimed his third racket victim after walking to his chair during a change of ends. He smashed the next racket just seconds after being hit with a code violation from the chair umpire.
The third smashed racket resulted in Paire receiving a point penalty as Baghdatis made an attempt to calm his opponent down with a conciliatory pat on the head as he walked past.
When walking back onto the court for the next service game, Paire tossed two excess rackets onto the ground near the net and forced a ball boy to pick them up and take them back to his bag.
He didn’t win — or even try to win — another point for the rest of the match as Baghdatis served out the third set at love.
Staring down match point, Paire clearly tanked. His return serve showed he had no intention of contesting the final point, making a lame swing that sent the ball straight into the ground.
His stunning collapse prompted a chorus of boos from the crowd. Paire responded by blowing the crowd kisses as he skulked off the court.
Paire has seemingly been in a downward spiral since he lost to Juan Martin Del Potro in the third round at Wimbledon four weeks ago.
Since his run-in with a chair umpire at the All England Club during his loss to the world No. 4, Paire has lost four straight matches and his brief flirtation with serenity.
Paire argued with a chair umpire when the official refused to overrule a linesman’s incorrect call. Despite eventually having the call go his way after a Hawk-Eye challenge, Paire continued to argue with the umpire.
Just like that, it seems, the old, self-destructive Paire was back.
Just days earlier at Wimbledon, Paire had declared he was a changed man.
“That’s where I feel like I’m progressing,” Paire said at Wimbledon, according to tennis.life.
“I’m losing 6-0 1-0, and three or four years ago I would have been insulting everyone — my whole box, saying, ‘It’s over, it’s total s–t.’
“These last few years I have had a lot of support from the people with me. Which has done me a lot of good, and made me aware of a lot of things. I would have liked to figure it out earlier, of course, but I’m happy to do it now.”
He said he’d had a crystallizing moment of revelation when he celebrated his 29th birthday during the Madrid Open in May.
“I finally realized that it just had to click inside,” he said. “I think back on it now and I think … I didn’t feel able to do it at that time. And now I really feel like I can. It seems natural now to be that way now — and it seems idiotic when I see people who get all annoyed.
“It’s weird. It’s like when you talk about the serve, you make one or two adjustments. But it took years for me to tell myself, all of a sudden, ‘C’mon Benoit, stop.’”
If only it had been this Benoit Paire that showed up in Washington.
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