Paire booed off after tennis meltdown
NOTORIOUS tennis hothead Benoit Paire is back on the rage train.
The French star said just two months ago he'd had a lightbulb moment of clarity surrounding his trademark hissy fits on 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.
This was not the same Benoit Paire that stepped onto court against Marcos Baghdatis in the first round of the ATP Tour's Washington Open.
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 racquets, 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 racquet of the day while still sitting on the court.
His claimed his third racquet victim after walking to his chair during the change of ends. He smashed the next racquet just seconds after being hit with a code violation from the chair umpire.
The third smashed racquet resulted in Paire receiving a point penalty as Baghdatis made a classy 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 racquets onto the floor 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 to love.
Staring down match point, Paire clearly tanked. His return of serve showed he had no intent to contest the final point, making a lame swing which sent the ball straight into the ground.
His stunning collapse prompted a chorus of boos from the crowd.
Paire responded to the heckling by blowing the crowd kisses as he skulked off the court.
The staggering meltdown left tennis commentators without words.
French tennis correspondent Axel Monnier described it as the worst game of tennis he has ever seen Paire play.
Paire has seemingly been in a downwards 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 now.
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.
"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***'.
"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 crystallising moment of revelation when he celebrated his 29th birthday during the Madrid Open in May.
"I finally realised 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 (on court).
"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.