Paire Saves 4 M.P., Earns Cilic Revenge In Dubai
Frenchman to face Gasquet in second round
One month after his final-set tie-break loss to Marin Cilic at the Australian Open, Benoit Paire completed a stunning comeback against the former World No. 3 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday.
The eighth seed saved four match points across the second and third sets to reach another final-set tie-break, which he dominated to earn a 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(1) win. The victory ends a five-match losing streak for Paire against Cilic. The World No. 21’s only previous ATP Head2Head win against Cilic came in their first tour-level encounter at the 2013 Tata Open Maharashtra.
“It was not easy today. I lost five times in a row against Marin. Lost against him in Melbourne 7-6 in the fifth. I was not confident before the match,” said Paire.
“[I am] really happy about the win. It was not easy today. I was not feeling really good on court. [I have been a] little bit sick [for] two, three days. Really happy to win today and to fight until the end.”
Paire entered the contest with a 1-3 record since his Melbourne loss to Cilic, but found his best level to win six consecutive points from 1/1 to close the match. Both players won 120 points —including 57 per cent of service points — throughout the two-hour, 32-minute first-round clash.
The 30-year-old will meet countryman Richard Gasquet for a spot in the quarter-finals. Gasquet advanced to the second round with a 6-4, 7-5 win against Marton Fucsovics on Monday. Paire trails Gasquet 2-7 in their ATP Head2Head rivalry, but the past four contests have been split 2-2.
“We played a lot together… It's never easy to play against him,” said Paire. “When he plays good, I know he's a very good player. He was Top 10. He was one of the best players [of] the past 10 years.
“I know how to play him. I beat him already. I know it will be a tough match. I have to play much better than today to win. But if I stay focused on my match, confident with myself, fighting until the end, I have my chance.”
Daniel Evans rallied from a break down on two occasions in the final set to eliminate fourth seed Fabio Fognini 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. The British No. 1, who also trailed 1-3 in the second set, converted his sixth match point in a marathon final game to improve to 9-4 this year.
“It's difficult to play Fabio. He's such a class player,” said Evans. “[I am] just happy to come through really. It was a good battle. I didn't actually get to play my game too much, but it was good.
"I felt like he was on top forever really. [I was] just hanging in. A good part of my game is hanging in, just staying in the match.”
Evans will face Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the second round. The Frenchman beat Delray Beach runner-up Yoshihito Nishioka 7-5, 6-2 in 78 minutes. Herbert dropped only four points behind his first serve (28/32) to level his ATP Head2Head series against the 24-year-old at 1-1.
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