Paire Eager For ATP Cup: ‘I Like Being On A Team A Lot’
Frenchman to suit up in Perth
Benoit Paire’s career resurgence this season has led to him earning the right to represent France in the inaugural ATP Cup, held throughout Australia from 3-12 January.
The Frenchman will join Gael Monfils, Lucas Pouille, Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in Perth from 3-8 January, where they will face off against Serbia, South Africa and Chile in Group A. Should they advance from their round-robin group, the trio will head to Sydney from 9-12 January as part of the Final Eight teams.
Paire’s clinched his first ATP Tour singles title in four years this April in Marrakesh (d. Andujar), then followed that up a month later with another title on home soil in Lyon (d. Auger-Aliassime) The 30-year-old also finished runner-up in Winston-Salem (l. to Hurkacz) and reached the fourth round at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Paire discussed his favourite French players growing up and why he thrives in a team environment.
Which French players did you like to watch growing up? I would say Sebastien Grosjean and Arnaud Clement. I was always following their matches and supporting them. I grew up close to Marseille, so I was able to see them live at the Open 13 in Marseille and it was important for me to watch them.
What are some of your earliest tennis memories in France as a child? I remember going with my parents to Roland Garros. It was a big experience to be able to watch the players practise and get some autographs from them.
What are you most excited for with the ATP Cup? I like being on a team a lot. You can feel the pressure when you’re playing for your country, so I’m very happy to play in the ATP Cup.
If you could pick one shot from any French player on Tour, who would it be and why? We have too many French players and too many good shots! I would say the speed of Gael Monfils.
Who is the funniest French player on tour? Again, Monfils. He’s a good player and I like to watch him play – when he wants to play! I understand though because sometimes it’s not easy to be 100 per cent every week, but I like to see him doing well this year.
What are three things you love most about France? The food, for sure. The girls are beautiful in France. And I like the crowds.
Did you grow up playing junior tournaments or team events with the other guys on your team? Not really because Monfils is older than me and Pouille is younger than me, but I know them well and we are good friends. It will be interesting to be on the same team.
Take Two: Divij Sharan & Samantha Murray Wed After Second Ceremony
Couple celebrates in Manchester and New Delhi
Plenty of people describe their wedding as the best day of their lives, but Indian doubles expert Divij Sharan was fittingly able to double his pleasure with British WTA pro Samantha Murray.
After their first wedding ceremony in Manchester on 19 July, the couple were surrounded by friends and family once again as they tied the knot in New Delhi on 23 November. Their busy schedules as professional tennis players meant they needed to wait until the off-season for a second ceremony.
“We decided to have two ceremonies so that we were able to celebrate both of our cultures and traditions which are important to us, with our family and friends from each side,” Sharan said. “We fit the events in around our tennis schedules, which is why they had to be four months apart.”
Sharan is currently No. 46 in the ATP Doubles Rankings. He won ATP Tour doubles titles this year in Pune (w/Bopanna) and St. Petersburg (w/Zelenay), in addition to a runner-up finish in Munich (w/Demoliner). Murray has a WTA singles ranking of No. 220.
“We hope to be able to play more combined events together so we can actually get to see each other!” Sharan said. “Life on tour is so busy, so I think it’s amazing that she is a tennis player as well. She knows what it takes to be on the circuit and we are there to support each other’s careers.”
Top-ranked American reflects on new event and competing for his country
John Isner will lead Team United States at the inaugural ATP Cup, to be held in Australia from 3-12 January 2020. The United States will be competing in Group D in Perth, facing Russia, Italy and Norway. Isner will be joined by Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.
The World No. 19, who finished inside the year-end Top 20 for the 10th consecutive season, speaks to ATPTour.com about his excitement for the new team event, his longtime relationship with one of his teammates and more before the competition gets underway.
Next year will start a bit differently for you with a new team event in the ATP Cup. How excited are you for that? It’s very interesting. This is of course a brand new event and one that I think a lot of players are excited about and myself in particular. I think I’m going to have a nice little off-season, spending a lot of my time in Dallas, being able to focus on my family, but also focus on myself and keeping myself in good shape and trying to stay sharp on the tennis side of things as well.
I’m looking forward to that event and I think it’s a very good thing. It’s guaranteed matches. The past three, four years I’ve sort of stumbled in Australia. It sort of takes me a long time to get going and feel good about my game, so I’m very much looking forward to the ATP Cup.
I think we also have a good team on top of that, so it’ll be exciting. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Perth, Australia. Looking forward to getting over there, it’s a lot of fun and it’ll be a blast.
You went to college before turning professional, so you’ve long enjoyed a team environment. Do you think that playing the ATP Cup will help you considering what you said about slow starts the past few years? I think so for sure. I’ve always enjoyed playing for a team. I’ve really done it my whole life. Playing in the team events, playing in the Laver Cup has been a joy for me and you definitely can get your competitive juices flowing after a pretty long lay-off.
It’ll be pressure-packed on top of that, being out there playing for your country right out of the gate. So I do think that will be a very good thing for me and hopefully it will bode well for the Australian Open next year.
One of your teammates is Rajeev Ram, who is just a year older than you. Is it exciting to compete with someone you’ve known for so long? We’ve known each other forever now, since 14 and under juniors. I remember seeing his name in the draw. He was always better than me in the juniors and he was a pretty big name when it came to junior tennis. He’s obviously done incredible things on the pro tour and he’s been incredibly consistent as well.
He had a very good singles career and now he’s having an excellent doubles career, so for him to be on the team I think is a huge boon for our team considering how good he is in doubles and he’s very excited about it as well. We’ve texted back and forth and I know he’s fired up about playing the ATP Cup. Austin Krajicek is on our team as well so our team is set and we’re looking forward to getting over to Australia.
How exciting is it to get to play with someone like Rajeev given those memories you have from when you were kids? It’s very cool. We’ve actually never had this opportunity before to play a team event together. We played at different colleges so to be able to team up with Rajeev I think will be very cool. Outside of the Bryan brothers, we’re the elder statesmen of American tennis, so it’ll be cool to team up with him.
How special is it for your to represent the United States? It’s a great honour. Getting to represent the U.S. in the ATP Cup is a huge honour, and it’s more important than playing for yourself out there. It’s a big honour and I personally think this event is going to be very successful as well. It’s going to be a lot of fun, the competition is going to be amazing. All in all, I couldn’t think of a better way to start the year.
What’s most special about the United States as a country? It’s the greatest country in the world. You have the most opportunity to do amazing things in this country and I’ve been afforded that opportunity through tennis. Everything you really want to do is at your disposal if you work hard, focus and just make right decisions and respect the people that you need to respect and I think that’s what I’ve done my whole life.
It’s afforded me to do some pretty cool things on the court and off the court. I enjoy my time in the States more than anything. I think there’s a reason why I always play well in America and it’s because I’m very comfortable here.
Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPTour.com revisits the fiercest rivalries of 2019. Today we feature Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer.
Once a rivalry moves past 20 or 30 matches, surely not even all-time greats Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer can recall each match in detail, such as who did what on match point and how exactly momentum shifted in each FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.
In 2019, Djokovic and Federer added only two matches to their FedEx ATP Head2Head series (Djokovic leads 26-23). But, no doubt, those two battles will remain long in the memory of both players, such was the quality of each meeting.
Wimbledon, F, Djokovic d. Federer 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4), 4-6, 13-12(3) Djokovic had beaten Federer in their past two Wimbledon finals (2014, 2015), and it had been four years since Federer had beaten Djokovic anywhere. But there was still plenty of reason to believe the Swiss, an eight-time Wimbledon champion, would pull off the upset.
Federer beat Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, their first matchup at SW19 since that 2008 final, widely considered the greatest match in history, and Federer had pushed Djokovic to three sets in the 2018 Rolex Paris Masters final, which was named “Best ATP Match Of 2018” by ATPTour.com.
But Djokovic harboured loads of confidence as well, having won his fourth Wimbledon title (d. Anderson) in 2018 and his past three matches against his Swiss rival.
Federer, playing in his 12thWimbledon final, forced the decider by serving the fourth set out during his second attempt. But Djokovic ripped back momentum in the fifth game of the deciding set, breaking for a 4-2 lead. The Serbian had been up and down during the final up to that point.
Djokovic battled to take the first set tie-break and the lead, then all but disappeared during the second set as Federer evened the match. In the third, the Djokovic of old entered lockdown mode to again take the tie-break.
But Federer, who was steady all match, answered in the fourth, giving a capacity Centre Court crowd and the millions of fans watching on TV exactly what they wanted: a fifth set.
Djokovic served for a 5-2 lead in the fifth when the best drama of the season began. Federer broke back as a pro-Swiss crowd roared, and the two stayed on serve until 7-7, when Federer broke for a chance to serve out the match.
At 37 years and 340 days, Federer was trying to become the oldest man in the Open Era to win a Slam. He also was seeking his ninth Wimbledon title and his first major championship crown since January 2018 at the Australian Open.
Serving at 8-7, 40/15, pro-Federer fans held up their index fingers. Just one more point, and Federer would be able to celebrate more Wimbledon glory. But the Swiss couldn’t handle a deep Djokovic return that made it 40/30, and Djokovic crushed a forehand pass to make it deuce before breaking and putting the final back on serve.
It had been 71 years since a Wimbledon men’s singles champion had saved match points in the final, and no singles match at SW19 had ever been decided by a fifth-set tie-break. For the first time, organisers decided that a tie-break would be implemented at 12-all in the fifth set instead of making someone win by two games, like Kevin Anderson did against John Isner in the 2018 semi-finals, when he won the fifth set 26-24.
But Djokovic saved two match points, and he won the fifth-set tie-break for his fifth Wimbledon title.
By some measures, Federer outplayed the Serbian, winning 14 more points and hitting 40 more winners (94 to 54). But by the most important measure – the score – Djokovic owned their 48th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting and had now beaten Federer in three consecutive Wimbledon finals.
Nitto ATP Finals, Group Bjorn Borg, Federer d. Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 Win and advance: Djokovic and Federer’s second match of 2019 would send one of them home and propel the other one to the semi-finals of the season finale at The O2 in London. Both players had lost to Dominic Thiem earlier in the week and were 1-1 heading into the Thursday night showdown.
Djokovic was hoping to reach the semi-finals and make a push for his sixth year-end No. 1 finish in the ATP Rankings. Federer, meanwhile, was going for his second “Big Title” of the season after winning his 28th ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami (d. Isner).
The Swiss also was looking to recalibrate his rivalry with Djokovic. The Serbian had won nine of their past 11 matchups, including the Wimbledon final in July. But, before their 49th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, Federer batted off any suggestions that the tough loss at SW19 would affect him at The O2.
“I didn’t hope I was never going to play him again,” Federer said. “Actually, it’s good for me to play him again, and maybe that all helps to get a chance to get him back.
“I’m personally excited to play against Novak.”
The excitement showed. Federer played one of his best matches of the season, executing his aggressive game plan close to perfection and overwhelming Djokovic, who never had the upper hand.
At 1-1, the Serbian donated two double faults to start, and on break point, 0/40, Federer walloped a sitting backhand. On serve, Federer won 87 per cent (20/23) of his service points and made only one unforced error in the first set.
Djokovic saw a break point in the fourth game of the second set, but Federer saved it and broke the next game as the crowd chanted, “Let’s go, Ro-ger, let’s go!”
Federer broke once more to close it out. He finished with 23 winners to only five unforced errors.
Watch Federer-Djokovic Nitto ATP Finals Highlights
“There was a lot riding on the match. I think I served great, had great anticipation, a clear game plan and it worked to perfection tonight, and hopefully not the last time against Novak,” Federer said. “But even if it [is], it was all worth it. It was a great performance tonight from me.”
Federer would fall short of winning the season’s final title, losing to Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals. But the Swiss had reset his rivalry with Djokovic, a promising sign for Federer and his fans heading into 2020.
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