Wimbledon Day 7 | Murray faces another unpredictable opponent
There will be a love-hate thing going on when defending Wimbledon champion Andy Murray faces Benoit Paire bidding for a quarter-final place in the second match on Centre Court on Monday.
He again has a different game to a lot of the guys now. He has very good hands, moves well, takes a lot of chances, goes for his shotsAndy Murray
Murray’s opponent has uttered his distaste for The Championships, declaring categorically two years ago: “I hate Wimbledon – and I am glad to leave as soon as possible.”
Paire is developing a history for shock as he was also booted out of the French team at the Rio Olympics for “flouting the rules”.
But Murray, of course, has a romantic attachment to the world’s most famous tennis event, having won the men’s singles twice.
And it is Paire who helped him strengthen that attachment last year.
Murray’s season kicked off from the point he overcame the Gallic Groaner in their only previous meeting at Monte Carlo in the April. A season which led to Olympic gold, the ATP World Tour finals crown, world No.1 spot and, most pertinently as regards Monday, Wimbledon.
Top seed Murray said: “It’s a slightly different situation, but it was more the way that last match finished. He served for the match and it was a really average match in terms of the level. Afterwards I was getting asked in the press: ‘How do you feel about the match? How do you feel about your game?’ It wasn’t the best tennis.
“And I said, ‘Well, it wasn’t, but that could turn out to be a really important match because I get a chance tomorrow to play better and let’s see what happens’.
“The next day I beat Milos Raonic to two and zero, and then had a great match with Rafa Nadal in the semis, even though I lost. Sometimes it only takes a match or two to start feeling good about yourself, to gain confidence.
“And after Monte Carlo I just felt way, way better and obviously ended up having a great season after that. So I hope this match against him has the same impact, but I hope I play better than I did that day.”
The omens are good that Murray can shave off the bearded Paire from his list of rivals. Murray, according to Wikipedia, has won 43 of his 52 matches against French players.
He said: “I don’t know why I play well against them. There have been a lot of matches I’ve won against French players from losing positions as well, so it’s not like I’ve killed them in the match that I’ve played.”
Talking to The Mirror, he added: “There have been a lot of close matches and I’ve just managed to get through, but I’ve no idea exactly why that is.”
Murray expects another unpredictable opponent, following victories over mavericks Alexander Bublik, Dustin Brown and Fabio Fognini.
He said: “He again has a different game to a lot of the guys now. He has very good hands, moves well, takes a lot of chances, goes for his shots.
“Again, he can be quite up and down. But he seems to have played pretty well so far at this event. I expect it to be tricky. I’ve never played him on grass before. I think until this year he hasn’t played so well on the grass himself. But, again, I see no reason why he can’t play good grass court tennis.”
Unseeded Paire, 28, in the fourth round for the first time, opted to attend a friend’s barbeque rather than watch Murray’s last-32 victory against Fognini. But he believes he can cook up a surprise win.
He said: “It’s good to play Murray here. Something different to play Murray on Centre Court. It will be a good experience. I think I can do something good against him. I play, for sure, my best tennis. Play full all the match. I want to stay focused.”