Benoit Paire says seeing fans in the stadiums at Madrid has made him ‘love tennis again’ after weeks of controversial comments and behaviour.
Paire has deliberately tanked in matches before openly admitting his only ‘priority’ was losing in the first round of tournaments to get himself out of the bio-secure ‘bubble.’
However, he looked like a man transformed in Madrid, where he beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 7-5 to put an end to a seven match (largely deliberate) losing streak.
“It had been a very long time since I entered a court with people around me supporting me,” Paire told L’Equipe.
“Being in empty stadiums is not something that I like. So being in Madrid in a Davis Cup atmosphere with French people who support me from start to finish, it makes me feel good and makes me love tennis again. That’s why I play and it warms my heart.
“I don’t just play for myself, I also play for the people who are there and who support me. I had to, for the recognition of this support, not to let go. It was not easy, I had to put myself in my head.”
Paire has been the subject of a lot of criticism for his attitude of late with many believing his has disrespected tennis.
However, he says the issue has been far more deep-seated than that.
“What has happened in the last few weeks is unrelated to the level of tennis. It was in my head.
“On the morning of my matches, I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed. But today I woke up without pressure. I was in a good mood, I laughed, my legs were moving well.
“So I had signs that showed me that it was all okay. And the reception on the court really set me right.
“I feel that there are people who don’t like me, but there are also people who like me a lot. And that makes me feel good.”
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