Michael Russell hits a return to Benoit Paire during day four of the Farmers… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
The scouting report on Benoit Paire spoke of flashes of brilliance with lulls of mindless miscues, so Michael Russell decided to counter with a steady effort, a style that propelled him to a 7-5, 6-4 upset victory in the second round of the Farmers Classic at UCLA's L.A. Tennis Center on Thursday night.
"It said sometimes it looks like he's not trying," said Russell, who had never faced Paire before Thursday's match. "Maybe he's not trying … It's pretty difficult, but I was proud of myself mentally."
Paire struggled with his first serves and backhands in the first set as Russell jumped ahead, 3-1. Although Paire grabbed the next two games, Russell eventually prevailed, 7-5, in the set.
Typically the challenge is breaking serve in professional tennis, but the opposite held true in the first set, as nine of the first 12 games went to the returner.
Paire, at 23 years old and the world's 50th-ranked player, was often flustered by Russell's play, as the 34-year-old American seemed to have more energy than his French counterpart.
"It was extremely difficult. Benoit has an awkward game style," Russell said. "You never know what to expect … He really gets you out of your rhythm as well, so I just tried to dig deep and luckily I got through it."
Russell earned three match points, but appeared to tense up on the first two with a double fault and a forehand shot into the net. Finally, on the third try, Russell sealed the victory.
He advances to the quarterfinals, where he will face sixth-seeded Marinko Matosevic, who eliminated Tobias Kamke, 6-3, 1-6, 6-0.
With top-seeded Paire's loss, three of the eight seeded players failed to reach the quarterfinals. Seventh-seeded Bjorn Phau and eighth-seeded Brian Baker both fell in the first round of action.
Earlier in the day, fifth-seeded Xavier Malisse beat Matthew Ebden, 6-4, 6-3, and fourth-seeded Nicolas Mahut outlasted Paolo Lorenzi, 7-5, 7-6 (9-7).
The four quarterfinal matchups will take place Friday beginning at noon, culminating in a 7:30 match featuring second-seeded Sam Querrey of Thousand Oaks against Malisse.