By Nick Zaccardi
PARIS — The French have been the story of the first week of Roland Garros. On Saturday, Benoit Paire made sure he wouldn’t be eliminated without making more headlines. He broke a racket and received a point penalty for coaching in a 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-1 loss to No. 13 Kei Nishikori and said he would have been treated differently if he were a top-five player.
“I think that the chair umpire wanted to be a promotion,” Paire said. “Because at 5-4 advantage for me on set points to put a warning [penalty point] for coaching, it’s unbelievable. I think if [Rafael] Nadal or some good player do the same thing, for sure he doesn’t put warning [penalty point].”
Paire was asked about it again in French. Here’s his translated response.
“What I found it difficult to accept is that [the chair umpire] didn’t go to beforehand to say, ‘Lionel [Zimbler, Paire's coach], calm down with the coaching,’ as they do, the umpires,” Paire said. “They go to the trainers, and they say, ‘Be careful, calm down.’ [Zimbler] don’t get any warning. And then on the advantage [set] point for me, 5-4, I received this warning [point penalty]. And the top five, they would never do this to the top five players.”
Coincidentally, French newspaper L’Equipe published a prediction of the top 10 men’s players in 2018 on Saturday. It ranked Paire No. 2. You can vote for who will be the No. 1 man in 2018 here.
Paire, 24, has been lauded for his maturation this year. He’s climbed from No. 47 to No. 26 and made one final and two semifinals. He’s also shown why what happened Saturday is no surprise. In April, he prepared for a match against Nadal by eating pizza, watching Maria Sharapova and tweeting about it.
Both incidents at Court Suzanne Lenglen on Saturday came during the only set Paire won. First, the racket dismantling at 4-3 after a pair of unforced errors.
Then, at 5-4, Paire was called for a point penalty on his set point for coaching. Apparently, he was in disagreement with chair umpire Enric Molina.
Paire must not have liked what he heard from Molina and requested the presence of a tournament referee.
Oh, yeah, Paire went on to win the set.
Shortly after the match, Paire turned from competitor to spectator. He’s a Stan Wawrinka fan the rest of the way.