Frenchman Benoit Paire entered his Grand Prix Hassan II semi-final having never won a set in three FedEx ATP Head2Head matches against countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. But despite Tsonga cruising through the first set and eventually leading by a break in the decider, Paire battled past the former World No. 5 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday to reach the Marrakech final, setting a clash against three-time champion Pablo Andujar.
“He played well in the beginning and I was struggling with the sun,” Paire said. “I’m very happy that I won today because this is the first time I beat him.”
Paire is into his first ATP Tour final since 2017 Metz, and he will attempt to claim his second trophy, having triumphed on the red clay of Bastad in 2015 (def. Robredo).
In the championship match, he will face a confident Andujar, who dismissed fourth seed Gilles Simon 6-1, 6-1 in just 74 minutes. Last year, as the World No. 355, Andujar became the lowest-ranked ATP Tour champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 1998. The Spaniard was battling back from three elbow surgeries, and he is currently 70th in the ATP Rankings, one spot behind Paire.
“The tournament is very strong this year with a lot of good players,” Andujar said. “My goal is to win tomorrow. After my injury I’ve always said that my goal is to be healthy. Of course 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.”
Andujar and Paire are certainly familiar foes. The Frenchman has won all three of their FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, but Andujar saved a match point to defeat Paire for the Marbella ATP Challenger Tour title two weeks ago.
“He’s a good friend of mine and I’m happy to face him again,” Paire said. “We know each other very well. I hope that I can win this time.”