In one of the strangest ATP semi-final in the last ten years, Benoit Paire took down Steve Johnson 1-6, 6-0, 6-0 in an hour and 23 minutes, advancing into the eighth ATP final in a career. Both players had to pass the quarter-final obstacles before this clash and it was Paire who found an extra boost after the opening set, dropping only 24 points in the rest of the encounter to march towards the finish line and stay on the title course.
Benoit fended off six out of eight break chances, facing no troubles after a slow start and controlling the pace on both serve and return to advance and set eyes on the third title of the season. Playing in the first semi-final since Winston-Salem a year ago, Steve had the upper hand in the opening set, delivering two breaks and moving 6-1 in front with a service winner in game seven after 25 minutes.
Out of sudden, Paire took charge in set number two, dropping five points in his games and breaking Johnson three times and introducing the final set with a backhand down the line winner in game six after just 49 minutes of play.
There, it was all about the Frenchman who fended off three break chances in the third game and grabbed them all for a double bagel and the place in the final. The young Pole Hubert Hurkacz is through to the first ATP final following a rock-solid 6-3, 6-4 victory over the 2nd seed Denis Shapovalov in 68 minutes.
The Canadian reached the first semi-final after Miami and played well against Miomir Kecmanovic and Andrey Rublev, losing ground today to propel Hubert through after one break in each set. Both served under 50% and Hurkacz made the difference with the second serve, losing only 13 points behind the initial shot and repelling all four break chances to mount the pressure on Felix who made too many errors, struggling on the second serve big time and ending his run in the semis.
Hurkacz sailed through his service games in the opener and delivered a break in game six after a costly double fault from the Canadian, closing it at 5-3 when Denis sprayed a backhand error. Shapovalov had the opportunity to move in front in the fourth game of the second set, squandering four break chances (the first two after terrible second-serve returns) and dropping 12 of the last 13 points to propel the Pole into the final.
Hubert brought the eighth game home with a service winner, breaking at 15 in the next game when Denis landed a forehand wide and moving over the top following a hold at love at 5-4.