On paper, there is a lot that separates Roger Federer and Benoit Paire.
Seventeen majors for a start. Seventy-five million dollars in prize money, more than 800 victories, 76 titles, not to mention that Federer sits 44 spots higher than Paire at No.2 in the world to the Frenchman's 46.
But on Tuesday at Australian Open 2013, the only thing separating these two combatants that they will care about will be the net.
Federer's record in the first round of the Australian Open is, like the man himself, impeccable. The former world No.1 has never lost in the first round in Melbourne. His earliest exit? That would be the third round. For the past nine years, Federer has been a semifinalist or better in Melbourne and won four titles.
Paire's record in Melbourne is a little more modest. In two visits to the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific, Paire has won just one match. Last year he made a straight-sets first-round exit after falling to Federer's countryman Stanislas Wawrinka.
But to be fair to Paire (excuse the rhyme), the Frenchman turned pro eight years after Federer and he's still only 23 years of age to the Swiss Maestro's 31.
In 2012, Paire chalked up some impressive wins over players including Alexandr Dolgopolov, Bernard Tomic and Grigor Dimitrov. But he also turned in some unexpected losses to players ranked below him. The kinds of matches that he needs to win if he’s to make the transition from the top 50 to the top 20.
Paire comes into the Australian Open following a semifinal appearance at Chennai that included a surprise win over Marin Cilic. Federer, meanwhile, didn’t play any lead-up tournaments and hasn’t played a competitive match since his very own “Gilette Federer Tour” in South America in mid-December.
Tall and lithe, Paire's nickname is "La Tige" (The Stalk). He is a wildly talented player, and while he’s a lover of the drop shot off either wing, Paire also makes frequent trips to the net where his 6' 5" (195cm) frame is a big advantage.
Paire once said of his playing style, "People must think I’m crazy. My philosophy is that if I have to play a point, try to play a beautiful one, no?"
He is a player renowned for not doing things the same way – enigmatic, entertaining but inconsistent.
So can Paire pull off an upset? It's very unlikely, but don't be surprised if the Frenchman features in the highlights reel almost as much as Federer will.