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Paire vs Andujar tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Andujar on 13-match winning streak heading into Marrakech final

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 13 Apr 2019
  • Benoit Paire faces Pablo Andujar in the final of the Grand Prix Hassan II
  • Paire vs Andujar is live from Marrakech on Sunday at 2pm local/BST
Benoit Paire

Defending champion Pablo Andujar brings a 13-match winning streak into the Grand Prix Hassan II final as he prepares to face Benoit Pare in Marrakech. 

Can Benoit Paire stop Pablo Andujar from claiming a record fourth Grand Prix Hassan II title as they face off in the Marrakech final on Sunday?

Paire is looking for just the second ATP Tour title of his career, and the first since winning Bastad in 2015 (d. Tommy Robredo), although he has made two subsequent finals, both on hard courts, finishing runner-up to Stan Wawrinka in Tokyo in 2015 and to Peter Gojowczyk in Metz in the autumn of 2017.

Benoit Paire
Before this week at the Grand Prix Hassan II, Paire had won back-to-back matches at ATP Tour level just once in 2019, and that in the very first week of the season at the Maharashtra Open where he made the quarterfinals before losing to compatriot Gilles Simon in three sets. Unfortunate to have to face seventh seed Dominic Thiem in the first round of the Australian Open, Paire nevertheless stretched the Austrian all the way in a late-night encounter, but was unlucky with his draws in February, winning just two matches in four events – and when he did get decent draws at Indian Wells and Miami, didn’t take advantage, losing to qualifier Prajnesh Gunnesawaran and Feliciano Lopez respectively. 

Paire has put some of these early exits to good account, though, playing the Rennes Challenger after losing in Melbourne – he retired in the quarterfinals against Yannick Maden – and the Marbella Challenger after losing early in Miami, where he made the final but lost to his opponent on Sunday, Andujar, despite holding match point.

A first-round defeat to world no. 207 Roberto Marcora in the first round of the Sophia Antipolis Challenger last week didn’t bode particularly well, but such are the giddy swings of results in Paire’s world that it’s not even a particular surprise to see him in the final of Marrakech this week – although a couple of the wins that he’s got on the way have been surprising, such as his 6-1, 6-3 demolition of Jaume Munar after the Spaniard had beaten world no. 3 Alexander Zverev in the previous round, and his semifinal comeback win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Saturday.

Paire was 0-3 vs Tsonga before Saturday’s Marrakech clash – but then they had never played on clay. Initially, it didn’t seem like it was going to make much difference, with Tsonga taking the first set 6-2 despite not playing particularly well while Paire scowled, kvetched and complained about the sun. But once Paire lifted his level in the second set, Tsonga didn’t have much to respond with, because his forehand was letting him down badly, particularly down the line. Once his serve was broken for the first time in Marrakech, the floodgates really opened for Tsonga, and not in a good way; Paire broke for a second time to lead 5-2, and although his attempt to serve out the second set was lackluster in the extreme and he ended up broken to love, Paire served out the set without fuss at the second time of asking.

Tsonga took the first break in the third set as he found a rare accuracy on his attacking forehand down the line, but Paire broke back to love and reeled off four games in a row to lead 5-3. Serving to stay in it, Tsonga saved three match points from 0-40 and when a fourth went by after umpire Mohamed Lahyani overruled what looked like a double fault – a call that Paire vehemently disagreed with, to put it mildly – I wondered if perhaps Paire’s tempestuous emotions might get the better of him. Tsonga, however, couldn’t find a way to ask the question of his compatriot, and on a fifth match point, shanked his forehand wildly. Paire had the win, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

‘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 faces a tough task if he is to win his first title since 2015, however, because Pablo Andujar has made something of a fine art of winning in Marrakech.

The first man to win three titles at the Grand Prix Hassan II, Andujar captured back-to-back titles in 2011-12, defeating Potito Starace and Albert Ramos-Vinolas respectively, back when the tournament was held in Casablanca. But it would take Andujar six years before he won his third Grand Prix Hassan II. 

Pablo Andujar
Ranked as high as world no. 32 in 2015, Andujar won just one of the first eight matches he played in 2016, then ended up absent from competition from February to September as he underwent elbow surgery, his ranking dropping to world no. 726 as a result. It would get worse before it got better: Andujar underwent two more elbow surgeries in 2017, playing just three matches in the entire season and losing his ranking entirely.

To go from world no. 1,690 at the start of 2018, to world no. 99 by the season’s end, was an incredible effort by the Spaniard, who would surely have been a shoe-in for the ATP’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2018 had not Novak Djokovic taken that honour. Andujar’s Marrakech campaign was a big part of that comeback, as the two-time champion – then ranked world no. 355 and playing on a protected ranking – beat Joao Sousa in the semifinal and Kyle Edmund in the final to become the lowest-ranked player to win an ATP Tour title since Lleyton Hewitt in 1998. 
Andujar would pick up two more Challenger titles by season’s end, and comes into Marrakech in 2019 ranked world no. 70 despite a poor start to the year which saw him lose his first four matches. Indeed, before Marrakech, Andujar had won just one ATP Tour-level match in five events – but he had made the semifinals of the Santiago Challenger, and then won back-to-back Challenger titles in Marbella and Villena, meaning he came into the Grand Prix Hassan II on a ten-match winning streak.

That streak now stands at 13 matches, and Andujar hasn’t dropped a set in Marrakech despite some good opposition, beating Federico Delbonis and Philipp Kohlschreiber by almost identical scorelines before receiving a walkover from Jiri Vesely in the quarterfinals. Up against Gilles Simon in the semifinals, Andujar efficiently powered through the fourth seed for a 6-1, 6-1 victory and a return to the final at the Grand Prix Hassan II.

‘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.’

All eight of Andujar’s ATP Tour final appearances have come on clay, and he is 4-4 in finals – in other words, 1-4 everywhere else apart from the Grand Prix Hassan II, and 3-0 at the Grand Prix Hassan II, whether in Casablanca or Marrakech.

He is, however, 1-3 against Paire and lost their first three encounters. But all those matches came in 2012-13. Their only recent match, which was extremely recent, at the Marbella Challenger a few weeks ago, saw Andujar save match point on his way to a 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 victory. With Andujar’s current 13-match winning streak and record at this tournament, as well as Paire’s unimpressive 1-4 record in finals, the Spaniard looks likely to win a record fourth Grand Prix Hassan II title on Sunday.

Paire vs Andujar Grand Prix Hassan II tennis is live from Marrakech on Sunday at 2pm local/BST

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Paire vs Andujar tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Andujar on 13-match winning streak heading into Marrakech final

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