PARIS (Reuters) – Frenchman Benoit Paire was surprised by how fit he felt as he advanced for the first time into the fourth round of the French Open on Friday.
Paire went through after Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta retired at the start of the fourth set when trailing 2-1, and now faces seventh-seed Kei Nishikori of Japan who was forced to dig deep to pull through his third-round game against Serb Laslo Dere in five sets.
“I’m the first one to be surprised, because honestly, I can’t say I did work that hard, but I feel good. I feel fit. And I want to surf that wave,” Paire told a post-match news conference.
“After the (second round) match against Pierre-Hugues (Herbert), I didn’t know what state I was going to be in. The next day I already felt okay. Physically I wasn’t too tired so I was rather satisfied.”
The bearded 30-year-old has a propensity to blow hot and cold but arrived in Paris on the back of a hot streak in Lyon where he claimed his second claycourt title of the season.
Paire said he was hungry for a win against Nishikori, having lost their most recent encounters, including a second-round clash at Roland Garros last year.
“Every time I feel he starts strongly and then our level balances, and I lose in the end,” the world number 38 said.
Paire’s compatriot and wildcard Nicolas Mahut on Friday failed in his bid to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time, crashing out in four sets against Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer, who won 3-6 7-6(3) 6-4 7-6(3).
Still, Paire is not alone in shouldering the weight of home expectations. Gael Monfils, seeded 14, goes head-to-head against another Frenchmen, wildcard Antoine Hoang, in their third-round tie.
France’s women players suffered a torrid tournament, with none making it to the third round, something that has only happened twice previously in the professional era, in 1981 and 1986.
(Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Toby Davis)