(Reuters) – The Monte Carlo Masters usually gives players the chance to perform on one of the most beautiful courts in the world but for Benoit Paire it felt like playing in a cemetery with fans kept away due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Frenchman lost to Australian Jordan Thompson 6-4 6-7(3) 7-6(5) in the opening round of the ATP Masters 1000 event on Sunday, his ninth defeat in 10 matches in 2021.
“I just don’t care. There’s no magic. What is the pleasure playing like this?” the 31-year-old told reporters at the Monte-Carlo Country Club on the French Riviera.
“Of course, it’s great to come here, but it’s like a practice session. If you’ve experienced the Tour and you see how it is now, the only thing you want is to just go away.”
A win against Chile’s Nicolas Jarry, who was ranked 1,165th at the time, in Cordoba in February is the only win Paire has managed this year.
Barring the ATP 250 event in Cordoba and the French Open, where he lost in the second round, Paire has lost his opening match at every tournament he has played since the tour resumed last August after a five-month break due to the pandemic.
However, due to the revised rankings system during the pandemic Paire remains 35th, which allows him to get into the main draw of tournaments.
“This doesn’t bring me anything except a bit more money. But there’s no pleasure in playing,” said Paire, who has earned over $8.5 million in career prize money.
“Normally this court is one of the most beautiful courts in the world. It seems like we are in a cemetery.
“The only pleasure I have is when I’m home without my mask and I don’t care about the COVID.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai;Editing by Peter Rutherford)