March 12, 2021
(Reuters) – Playing matches in empty stadiums and following strict COVID-19 protocols has made the ATP Tour “sad, boring and ridiculous”, France’s Benoit Paire said after he was knocked out of the Chile Open by Danish teenager Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune.
The professional circuit was shut down for several months last year before tournament organisers set up biosecure bubbles for players and support staff while keeping fans away from stadiums.
Barring the swing in Australia in February, tournaments continue to be played in front of a handful of fans at most. The lack of spectators has affected players who thrive on a febrile atmosphere, while also impacting tournament finances.
Paire, ranked 29 in the world, said the sport had become a “tasteless job”.
“The ATP circuit has become sad, boring and ridiculous,” the 31-year-old, who last month criticised Australian Open organisers for their treatment of players during quarantine, wrote on Instagram.
“I know you are going to say you don’t realize how lucky you are… but playing in closed stadiums without any atmosphere (isn’t) why I play. Having to stay at a hotel or club and be forbidden to go out without risking a fine, where is the pleasure of travelling?
“Tennis (has) become a tasteless job…I need time to adapt to this pseudo ATP circuit but I will make the efforts to try to just rediscover the pleasure of playing tennis.”
Paire, who made headlines last week when he crashed out of the Argentina Open after appearing to tank his final service game and being docked a point for spitting, said results are the last thing on his mind ahead of his trip to Acapulco and Miami.
“My goal will be to have a smile and enjoy hitting a ball,” he said. “Whether I win or lose, I could not care less.”
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)