The venues have changed, the dates of the tournament have changed but the one thing constant in the last eight years of the ATP 250 tournament in India has been the presence of Benoit Paire.
The Frenchman is the top seed and will regain his career-best ranking of World No. 18 if he wins the tournament. “It’s very important, because last year, my season didn’t begin well. I played badly at the beginning of the season, lost eight or nine first-round matches, so I don’t have any points to defend. My ranking now is 19. one spot from my best ranking. So it’s very important for me to play well here,” he said.
“If I win the tournament, I will be 18 and I have a good chance to better it. So for me, it’s very important to win every match and get to my highest ranking this year because I don’t have any points to defend at the beginning. So I got to try to do my best to get it as soon as possible,” he said.
Though his season didn’t begin well, he had a great year, registering a career-high 34 wins in 2019 with two titles in Lyon and Marrakech. He has also been in good form this year, reaching the ATP 250 final in Auckland and pushing Marin Cilic to a five-setter in the Australian Open. He also had a decent run at the ATP Cup.
Known for his combustible on-court behaviour, he believed he has mellowed down. There were still the occasional outburst and mangled racquets, but he credited his relatively calmer demeanour helping him play better this year.
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“I think I’m older and should show maturity. I try to enjoy on the court more than before. I have been very calm since last year. Okay, sometimes I can break a racquet. But if you see over the year, I have been very calm and that’s why my ranking is better. That’s why I have won two titles. That’s why it was my best year last year.
“So I think I improved a lot mentally and physically. I managed my body very well. I know if I’m tired, I don’t play too much. I think mentally I’m much better and that’s why my ranking is good,” the 30-year-old said.
Despite the change in dates and the start of the European leg with a tournament underway closer home in Montpellier, the Frenchman chose to play in India. “Yes, there is a tournament in France but I wanted to come back to India. I like coming here. Tournament director Prashant is a good guy and we talk a lot together. Dates changed because of the ATP Cup, but I told him if there is a chance to come here, I will come,” he said.
“It’s a tournament I like to play at the beginning of the season. When I saw I was the top-seed, I thought I have to do something good. I had to come,” he reiterated.
Talking about his former doubles partner Leander Paes, who is playing his last ATP Tour tournament in India this week, Paire said: “Yeah he is one of my good friends on tour. I played with him last year for six or seven tournaments together. He is a very good guy. I’m very sad he is stopping now; he is still very good. I am going to miss him in tournaments.
“Every time I see him on the court, when I see off the court he is one of the best guys. Honestly, the only thing I have to say is ‘Good luck for the rest of your life. Maybe you’re going to stay on in tennis, I don’t know. But just enjoy and be the same because you’re the best guy,” he said.