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Tsonga vs Paire ATP Marrakech Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Tsonga and Paire meet in all-French Marrakech semi

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 12 Apr 2019
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Benoit Paire is live from Marrakech on Saturday, 13 April from 1:30pm local time/ 1:30pm BST
  • Tsonga has won all three previous meetings in straight sets
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will attempt to reach his second final of the season when he takes on fellow Frenchman, Benoit Paire in all-French semi-final in Marrakech on Saturday.

Tsonga is into the semi-finals of the Grand Prix Hassan II for the second time, having made the last four in his only previous visit in 2008, when the tournament was still staged in Casablanca. Back then, he withdrew from a scheduled meeting with Gilles Simon due to injury- can he go one better in 2019 by taking down another of his compatriots, Paire on Saturday?

Paire is also into his second semi-final at the tournament, matching his efforts in 2017, when he fell to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the last four. 

Tsonga has moved through his three matches in Marrakech without dropping a set, opening with a 6-1 7-6 victory over German, Cedrik-Marcel Stebe before coming through a difficult second round encounter against British No. 1, Kyle Edmund, 7-6 6-3. The former Australian Open finalist scored his most convincing win of the week in the quarter finals, taking out Italian qualifier, Lorenzo Sonego 6-3 6-2 on Friday. The Frenchman lost just seven points on serve throughout the match against Sonego, facing no break points in the 67-minute encounter. Tsonga broke once in the first set, and then twice in the second, winning the last five games to romp to victory.

“My opponent played very well this week,” said Tsonga. “So I tried to take the initiative and put him under pressure right from the beginning. The goal is to play well again tomorrow and reach the final. I feel well here, we are in Africa. The fans support me a lot.”

After missing a big chunk of last season due to knee surgery, and consequently sliding out of the top 200, former world No. 5, Tsonga has been doing a good job of rebuilding his ranking this season, climbing up to No. 116 in the world after a 14-4 start to the year. He won the Montpellier title in February- his first title since October 2017, while he made the semi-finals in Brisbane and a quarter final in Rotterdam. His momentum was broken by his decision to skip Indian Wells, a call he had to make to manage the effects of Sickle Cell disease, a medical condition with which he has been diagnosed, while he fell in the qualifying rounds in Miami.

After that brief lull, Tsonga has regained some form on clay, and he will attempt to reach just his second final on the surface when he plays Paire on Saturday. His only prior clay-court final was in Lyon in 2017.

The enigmatic Paire stands in his way on Saturday.

While Tsonga enjoyed a fine start to the season, Paire struggled in the opening months of 2019, winning just four tour-level matches heading into Marrakech. He actually made a decent start, reaching the Pune quarter finals in the opening week of the season, but he has won only two matches since then, in Montpellier and Marseille, and has fallen in the opening rounds in Auckland, the Australian Open, Rotterdam, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami.

He dipped into the Challenger tour in his search for form, and he found some towards the end of March, when he made the final in Marbella. Paire lost in the first round at his next event- the Sophia Antipolis Challenger- but he’s rebounded nicely to string together a decent run in Marrakech. The Frenchman recovered from a set down to beat Aljaz Bedene in the first round, before easing past Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Jaume Munar to make the semis. 

Spanish young gun, Munar, had upset top seed, Alexander Zverev in the previous round, but he was no match for Paire, who required less than an hour to score the 6-1 6-3 victory.

“I played aggressively today and was able to bother him,” said Paire. “I made the right choices and I’m really happy with my match today".

Unfortunately, "making the right choices" on court hasn't always been a feature of his career. The talent of the man is not in question, but his application and general decision making has not always matched those abilities. Paire reached a career-high ranking of No. 18 in 2016, but he is currently down at 69th following a lengthy spell of poor results. This Marrakech semi-final is his first tour-level semi in 16 months (since Sydney 2018), and if he makes the final, it would be his first since Metz in September 2017. His only career title was on the clay of Bastad in 2015.

If Paire is to make his sixth ATP Tour final, he will have to score his first victory over compatriot Tsonga, who has won all three previous meetings in straight sets. They have not met since 2015.

"Jo is a great player, I’ve never beaten him. So it will be a complicated match for sure. But the last matches gave me confidence, so I look forward to the semi-final", Paire said.

It's a very interesting match-up, as while Tsonga is stronger on the forehand wing, Paire has a clear advantage on the backhand. Tsonga is also the more consistent server, which has helped him to bring his forehand more into play and take charge of points early on in the rally. This will be their first meeting on clay, which alters the dynamics a bit, as it gives Paire a better chance of scoring his first victory over Tsonga in my opinion. He's still got to play very well though, serve well, stay aggressive, especially to the Tsonga backhand.

Tsonga remains a slight favourite, but if Paire comes to the party, which is never a given, I believe he's got a good chance here.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Benoit Paire is live from Marrakech on Saturday, 13 April from 1:30pm local time/ 1:30pm BST

*Geo-restrictions apply. Streams available to customers with an active balance

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Tsonga vs Paire ATP Marrakech Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Tsonga and Paire meet in all-French Marrakech semi

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Benoit Paire meet for the fourth time on Saturday as they battle for a spot in the Marrakech final. Will Tsonga maintain his perfect record against his compatriot? Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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