Benoit Paire sets up Marrakesh final against three-time champion Pablo Andujar - UBITENNIS
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Benoit Paire sets up Marrakesh final against three-time champion Pablo Andujar

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Benoit Paire came back from one set down to beat his compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 2-6 6-4 6-3 in the all-French semifinal at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakesh setting up a final against defending champion Pablo Andujar, who eased past Gilles Simon 6-1 6-1.

 

Tsonga came back from 30-40 to earn his first break in the second game for 2-0. He held a tough service game in the seventh game after two deuces before closing out the 33-minute first set with a double break in the eighth game.

Paire went up a break in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. This was the first time Tsonga dropped his serve this week. Paire went double break in the seventh game to open up a 5-2 lead.

Tsonga pulled one of the two breaks back at love in the eighth game and held his service game at 30. Paire served out the second set at 15 in the 10th game.

Tsonga came back from 0-30 down to hold his serve and went up a break in the fourth game of the decisive set to take a 3-1 lead, but Paire broke straight back in the fifth game. Paire got a second consecutive break in the seventh game and held his serve at love to take  a 5-3 lead. Tsonga saved four match points before double faulting to face a fifth match point. Paire sealed the third set after a forehand error from Tsonga.

Paire has reached his first final since Metz 2017 and will be bidding to win the second title of his career four years after his first triumph in Bastad 2015 on clay.

“He played well at the beginning and I was struggling with the sun. I am very happy that I won today because this is the first time I beat him”, said Paire.

Paire will face Pablo Andujar, who lost just two games in his 6-1 6-1 win over Gilles Simon. The Spaniard, who underwent three elbow surgeries, won the Marrakesh title for the third time in his career in 2018 becoming the lowest ranked player to win an ATP Tour title since Lleyton Hewitt in 1998. Andujar had previously won two  consecutive editions of the Moroccan tournament in 2011 and 2012.

Andujar broke twice to race out to a 4-0 in the opening set before Simon got his first game on the scoreboard in the fifth game. Andujar broke for the third set with a forehand down the line to close out the first set 6-1.

The Spaniard went up a double break in the fourth and sixth games to race out to a 5-1 lead. He saved a break point, when he was serving for the match, and held his serve at deuce to seal the second set.

“The tournament is very strong this year with a lot of good players. My goal is to win tomorrow. After my injury I have always said that my goal is to sty healthy. I want to win tomorrow and I will give my best. I won’t be the favourite but I played well today and have nothing to lose”,said Andujar.

Paire has won all his three head-to-head matches against Andujar, but they have not met since 2013.

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Tough draws for Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep at the Porsche Indoor Grand Prix in Stuttgart

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Reigning US Open and Australian champion and world number 1 Naomi Osaka has been drawn in the same quarter as two-time champion Angelique Kerber and Hsieh Su Wei at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, which features six of the top 10 players of the WTA Ranking. The tournament takes place on indoor clay at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart.

 

Osaka will make her second appreance in the star-studded Stuttgart tournament after losing to Great Britain’s Johanna Konta in the opening round in 2017. The Japanese player, who is receiving a bye from the opening round, is on a collision course for a possible second round match against Hsieh Su Wei, who will make her debut in the Stuttgart tournament against Qiang Wang in the first round.

Last year’s Roland Garros champion Simona Halep could face crowd favourite Andrea Petkovic in the second round. The Romanian player could meet either Kiki Bertens or this year’s Dubai champion Belinda Bencic.

Defending champion and this year’s Miami champion Karolina Pliskova will take on the winner of the blockbuster match between Garbine Muguruza and Victoria Azarenka. In this section Caroline Garcia has been drawn with Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, who reached the semifinal in Stuttgart last year and in Miami in 2019. Garcia contributed to the win in the decisive doubles match alongside her teammate Kristina Mladenovic in the Fed Cup semifinal against Romania in Rouen.

In the bottom half of the draw this year’s Australian Open finalist and Sydney champion Petra Kvitova could meet the winner of an all-Latvian first round clash between 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko and Anastasjia Sevastova.

 

 

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Fabio Fognini lifts his maiden Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo

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Fabio Fognini beat Dusan Lajovic 6-3 6-4 in the final of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters to win the maiden Masters 1000 title of his career. Fognini has become the first Italian to win in the Monte-Carlo Country Club since Nicola Pietrangeli in 1968.

 

Fognini, the first Italian player to reach the final in the Principality since Davis Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti lost to Bjorn Borg in 1977, is the lowest player to win the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title since Gustavo Kuerten in 1999. Fognini was on the verge of defeat in the first round when he trailed 4-6 1-4 during the second set against Andrey Rublev.

In the next rounds Fognini went on to beat 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev in the third round, Borna Coric in the quarter final in another three-set match after trailing 1-6 0-2. 11-time Monte-Carlo champion Rafael Nadal in the semifinal and Dusan Lajovic in the final.

Fognini is the first Italian champion in the Masters series since 1990. Since 2005 the only three other champions in the Monte-Carlo champions have been Rafael Nadal (eleven times from 2005 to 2012 and from 2016 to 2018), Novak Djokovic (twice in 2013 and 2015) and Stan Wawrinka (2014)

In his first head-to-head match against Lajovic Fognini saved two of the four break points he faced and broke serve four times. The Italian player hit 19 winners to 23 unforced errors, while Lajovic produced a ratio of 16 winners to 36 mistakes.

Lajovic earned the first break of the match in the third game to take a 2-1 lead, but Fognini broke twice in the fourth and sixth games to win five of the next six games.

Both players traded breaks in the first and second games of the second set. Fognini earned the decisive break to take a 3-2 lead, when Lajovic sent a forehand long. Fognini received a medical time-out to treat his ankle, but he held his next three service games to close out the match with a service winner on his second match point.

Fognini will reach his career high of world number 12 just 5 points behind Marin Cilic. He is just 250 points away from the top 10.

“I was born near Monte-Carlo and it’s awesome to win this tournament. Congratulations to Dusan. You have a great team. your coach José Perlas trained me in the past. Continue to work hard. It will be your time soon. I thank my team. This year I started badly. Thanks to my wife Flavia for her support. Thank to my town Arma di Taggia. I want to thank the Tournament Director Zeliko Franulovic. I dedcate this trophy to my mother, who will celebrate her birthday tomorrow”, said a delighted Fognini during the award ceremony.

 

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Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor clinch their first doubles title as a team in Monte-Carlo

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Seventh-seeded Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor from Croatia fended off one championship point to beat Robin Haase and Wesley Koohlof from the Netherlands 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-3) 11-9 in the doubles final of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

 

Mektic and Skugor won 76 percent of their first serve points to win their maiden title as a team. Mektic and Skugor converted three of their 12 break points and saved one of the four chances they faced.

The Croatian players broke serve in the second game to open up a 3-0 lead. Haase and Koolhof won the next three games to draw level to 3-3.

Haase and Koolhof fended off three consecutive set points at 5-6 15-40 before sealing the tie-break of the opening set.

Mektic and Skugor earned an early break in the opening game of the second set, but Haase and Koolhof broke straight back in the next game.

Koolhof hit a forehand winner down the line to break for 5-3, but they were not able to serve out for the match. Mektic and Skugor broke straight back to draw level to 5-5 forcing the second set to the tie-break. Mektic and Skugor cruised through to a 6-0 lead in the tie-break to clinch the second-set 7-3 on their third set point.

Mektic and Skugor saved a match point at 8-9 before winning three consecutive points to claim the title 11-9 on their own first championship point.

Mektic has clinched his third doubles title in the past year after Madrid 2018 with Alexander Peja and Indian Wells with Horacio Zeballos in 2019. Skugor has won his second title in two consecutive weeks after his triumph alongside Austria’s Jurgen Melzer in Marrakesh.

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