Benoit Paire is not losing hope of returning to the higher tier of men's tennis, but off-court criticism has been tough to digest in the past year.
Paire scored a memorable win over former World No. 1 Andy Murray at this week's Montpellier Open in his home country. The Frenchman bounced back from losing the first set of that first-round match to topple the Briton 2-6, 7-6, 6-3 in a match that lasted nearly three hours.
It was the first tour-level win for Paire in 18 months, and the reaction at the end of the match was justification that he truly cared for his career and results. Two years ago, the three-time ATP titlist was ranked in the world's Top 50 but currently finds himself outside the Top 100.
In fact, his dismal form last season saw him cascade to World No. 217, his lowest ATP ranking since 2010. Paire did not meet the threshold to regularly compete on the ATP Tour and had to build his ranking and restore his lost confidence in the Challengers.
Fortunately for him, his game enabled him to pick up two titles in the ATP's second tier and finish in 2023 ranked World No. 117. Paire is now on the verge of a Top 100 return after ending his four-match losing streak in Montpellier in 2024 with the shock victory over Murray.
But in a recent interview on L'Equipe, he shed light on a tough season last year where he had to go down the staircase to compete in Challenger tournaments and explained that the after-effects of COVID-19 hampered his form.
"It's also been a long time since I played tournaments of this level. I spent a year playing Challengers, apart from Roland Garros where I had a wild card. It was a complicated year, but I had no choice but to return to the Challengers to gain points and move up in the rankings."
"My goal was to finish the year in the top 100 and I did not get there, I finished 115. Since Covid, it's difficult and I haven't had very good results."
In the past, Paire has revealed that he consumed high levels of alcohol upon realizing that his career was starting to go off the track. He was not fond of playing tennis tournaments in front of meager crowds and has been open about it.
But tennis onlookers are quick to pull out the knives when they can easily spot a weakness and use it against a declining player. Paire, however, has cut on his drinking habits and appears to have turned his career around at the age of 34. He admits the criticism levied on him has been "difficult".
"I continually hear these criticisms that I only drink alcohol and that there's no point in me playing tennis... On a daily basis, it's difficult."
Benoit Paire's Montpellier Open campaign ended in the second-round stage after losing to compatriot Harold Mayot 6-1, 6-4.