An Ode To An Axe Murderer

When customers ask KK and I who our favourite tennis player is, I can sometimes see the fog of boredom in their eyes. There’s nothing original about being obsessed with Roger (in the lead up to the AO, I’ll publish A Stalker’s Guide to Roger Federer, I promise).

The more interesting question would be: who’s your second favourite player?

Mine is the French axe murderer Benoit Paire, who had a wonderful tantrum at the ATP Cup in Brisbane on Monday night.

During the tantrum, Paire spat on the court, murdered one racquet, removed another from his bag, chopped that one up too, then started hurling drink bottles onto the court as team captain Gilles Simon tried to calm him down. 

It wasn’t the first time things have gone Paire shaped. In 2017, the lanky Frenchman famously accrued three warnings in two minutes, starting in just the second game of a match. How he could be so wound up after only stepping onto the court minutes earlier remains a mystery.

Maybe the announcer pronounced his name funny? Or there was a stray wisp on his beard?

Paire has a perverse relationship with the so-called game of tennis. His ‘look’ is just perfect. Tall. Lean. Stiff-backed. Collar up. Cropped hair (inexplicably died pink in 2018) blending into a thick lumberjack’s beard. Usually there's a glazed look in his eyes, as if the red mist is perpetually on the brink of descending.


Baby Benoit (sic[in the head!]) sans beard, coldly plotting his first assault on a tennis racquet


Let’s start with the good. Paire has a sublime two-handed backhand, wrenching his whole body into the shot. Watching him live last year, I was awestruck by the sleekness of the stroke and the sound that the ball made off his racquet. It was a sharp thud, much like a human bludgeoning another human know, an axe.

He is capable of the most absurd brilliance. The opening point of the third set tiebreak against Kevin Anderson on Wednesday night being a case in point, when BP lunged, full stretch, to make a forehand pass, literally bleeding for the French Resistance. 

Unfortunately, Paire has a dreadful forehand–the worst on the tour, according to Brad Gilbert–which opponents mercilessly pound away at. A heavy western grip, paired(!) with poor footwork and a decelerating racquet head is a recipe for inconsistency and, ultimately, catastrophe.

The lure of watching him play is that catastrophe is never far away, even when everything is going well. 

Especially when everything is going well.

What I love most about Benoit is that he reminds me of Joaquin Phoenix method acting an axe murderer who’s been forced into a professional tennis career, despite not possessing one of the two vital strokes that a tennis player ought to have.

All great characters have a fundamental weakness, I guess.


Should Benoit follow in the footsteps of Joaquin Phoenix, Jared Leto and Heath Ledger and play the Joker? No, because Novak will sue him!


Benoit/Joaquin is by no means alone in the red mist zone. Tennis is a sport that attracts psychopaths...or perhaps a sport that stops psychopaths doing worse things with their lives? 

See also: Stefanos Tsitsipas striking his father Apostolos (God of Parents Inexplicably Coaching Their Children) during a mid-match meltdown on Tuesday night and Alexander Zverev experiencing a psychological crisis during his loss to Alex de Minaur. 

I’m bemused by the condemnation of Benoit/Joaquin’s behaviour at the ATP Cup. We know what the deal is with this unruly fellow every time he steps onto the court. You don’t invite Marcel Marceau to perform at your son’s birthday party without expecting the kiddies to have nightmares...

Yes, Benoit/Joaquin’s outburst on Monday was a poor example for children. Cry me a river! It was also hilarious and absorbing viewing (he won the match, incidentally). Do we only watch tennis to witness exemplary behaviour? If so, then enjoy watching the Pete Sampras documentary. Every monotonous minute of it!

I watch tennis hoping for a mix of sublime skill (the art of Roger), pure grunt (Serena, Novak, Rafa), tactical nous (Bernard Tomic...I kid, I kid!) and a desire to see the physical and psychological limits that the game can push people to. 

And every time I sell a racquet, I’m a small bit excited that its destiny might be to end up beheaded on a court in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. 

Merci, Benoit! Thank you Joaquin!

As always, if you need any tennis equipment (to smash), or just fancy a chat about the game, please drop by KK Tennis. 475 Malvern Road, South Yarra. Looking forward to a great summer of tennis!

January 09, 2020 — Murray

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