It has been a strange, strange year. And for Benoit Paire playing without spectators has been the most difficult thing to adjust to in this Coronavirus-affected season.
Paire’s theatrics, after all, need an audience.
“I don’t like this at all,” said the Frenchman ahead of the Astana Open where he is the top seed.
“I want to hear something from the crowd and a real person. The noise (from electronic line calling) I don’t really like honestly. This is not why I play tennis. I play to play in front of people. To have crowds and not fake noise.”
Paire, 31, reached the finals of the Auckland Open in January. But his season has pretty much been downhill from there. He hasn’t been able to win two matches in a row since and has a win-loss record of 10-12 this season.
“This year was good at the beginning. I made the final in Auckland, felt good on the court and I was happy to play,” he said.
“Last year was a good year too, so I was very happy to start the season like this and then Covid-19 arrived with lockdown in France. We had to stay at home and couldn’t do anything physically.”
The Frenchman, currently ranked 28 in the world, also tested positive for the novel virus twice after the Tour resumed in August after an almost six-month hiatus. Paire tested positive ahead of the US Open and was removed from the tournament.
He again tested positive ahead of the ATP event in Hamburg in September. Though Paire was allowed to compete at the clay-court tournament in Germany, he retired from his first-round clash against Casper Ruud.
“When we started again I was not ready mentally to play like this without fans on the court,” Paire said ahead of the Astana Open.
“I have not had the best preparation for this tournament. I haven’t won a lot of matches but you never know. The confidence is not there for the moment but it will be here if I win a couple matches.
“That is the most important thing for me in the tournament. To try to enjoy playing on the court and have fun. Even if I play bad, just try and fight. This is what I haven’t done since the Tour started again.”