French tennis player Benoit Paire suggests he prefers losing amid coronavirus pandemic

This is all part of Paire’s plan, apparently.

“I lost in the first round; it’s better. I will be able to get out of the bubble fairly quickly and enjoy a few days before Miami,” Paire told French sports daily L’Équipe — as translated by Insider — after his 68-minute loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Mexico on March 16.

Paire was referring to the Miami Open, which begins this week without 21 players who have withdrawn, including four of the top six in the men’s world rankings. It’ll be the first ATP 1000 tournament without Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal since 2004, and Serena Williams — an eight-time winner of the event who lives nearby in Florida — also announced she will skip the tournament because of recent oral surgery.

Few sports have been affected by pandemic restrictions on fans as much as professional tennis, which relies on ticket sales to pay prize money and appearance fees to its players. The Miami Open, for instance, will offer $300,110 to the winners of the men’s and women’s singles tournaments, significantly down from the $1.354 million won by Federer and Ashleigh Barty in 2019. Total prize money at Miami is down from $16.7 million in 2019 to $6.68 million this year.

Appearance fees given to top players also have been slashed, with Paire pointing out to L’Équipe that he would take home $30,000 for winning an ATP 250 event but also $10,000 merely for showing up and losing his first-round match.

“I arrive, I take some money, and I go to the next tournament. I do my job,” he said. “Why tear yourself away like crazy to earn barely more?”

Paire also has said that playing in mostly empty stadiums and having his movement restricted to a hotel or the stadium sites during the pandemic has taken a toll.

The ATP circuit “has become sad, boring and ridiculous,” Paire wrote on Instagram on March 11. “I know you are going to say you don’t realize how lucky you are, blah-blah-blah, but playing in closed stadiums without any atmosphere isn’t why I play tennis. … Tennis has become a tasteless job.”

Paire penned that post after his outburst during a match against Argentine qualifier Francisco Cerundolo in Buenos Aires. After winning the first set, Paire protested a call by the umpire by spitting on a contested ball mark. He then tanked the final games and deliberately double-faulted to end the match.

“I’m going to go play Acapulco and Miami after thinking a lot, and my goal will be just to have a smile on the court and enjoy hitting a ball,” he wrote in the Instagram post. “Whether I win or lose, I really don’t care.”