Dubai: Fourth seed Fabio Fognini made a forgettable debut as he slipped to a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 loss to Great Britain’s best player Daniel Evans while eighth seed Benoit Paire saved four match-points to claw his way to a marathon 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (1) win over former US Open champion Marin Cilic at the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open on Tuesday.
Fognini blundered at crucial stages during his two hours and 39 minutes battle on court to go down to the world No.37 from Great Britain.
“Yeah, in the end it was good. It’s difficult to play Fabio. He’s such a class player. Just happy to come through really. It was a good battle. I didn’t actually get to play my game too much, but it was good,” Evans admitted.
“I felt like he was on top forever really. So, I was just hanging in. The good part of my game is hanging in, just staying in the match really. There were points for double break in the second set, and I just stuck it out,” the 29-year-old added.
Evans will next meet Pierre-Hugues Herbert after the Frenchman had overcome Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka 7-5, 6-2 on one of the side courts.
Earlier, a losing finalist in Auckland earlier this season, Paire showed his survival instincts throughout his encounter against the 2014 US Open champion. It was Cilic who broke in the second in-between two held serves to go 3-0 clear in the opening set. One more break in the eighth game and Cilic was showing signs of re-discovering his lethal game as he wrapped up the set 6-2 in 36 minutes.
The second one started off differently with Paire breaking in the first game and held for 2-0. Cilic just hung in and broke back in the sixth and then held to lead 4-3 for the first time. But it was Paire who had the final word as he broke a second time in the 11th game to take the second set 7-5 in nearly one hour.
Cilic started well in the deciding third to lead 2-0, but the eighth seed broke back in the fourth and from then on it was neck-and-neck till the Croatian saw himself in the clear as the eighth-seeded Frenchman remained on the edge of an early exit. But he hung in and served an error-free tie-breaker to win 7-1 to set a meeting with fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
“It was not easy today. I lost five times in-a-row against Marin. Lost against him in Melbourne 7-6 in the fifth. I was not confident before the match. But really happy about the win. It was not easy today. I was not feeling really good on court,” Paire said.
“I was a little bit sick for two, three days, and I am really happy to win and to fight until the end. I was full and I tried until the end. It was good working and really happy about the win even though it was not easy,” he added as he prepared for fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet on Wednesday.
(Singles) Benoit Paire bt Marin Cilic 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (1); Daniel Novak bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-4, 6-3; Yasutaka Uchiyama bt Yen-Hsun Lu 3-6, 6-1, 6-2; Alexander Bublik bt Hubert Hurkacz 6-2, 7-5; Filip Krajinovic bt Joao Sousa 4-6, 6-3, 6-3; Daniel Evans bt Fabio Fognini 3-6, 6-4, 7-5; Pierre-Hugues Herbert bt Yoshihito Nishioka 7-5, 6-2.
(Doubles) Rajeev Ram/Joe Salisbury vs Marin Cilic/Novak Djokovic; Jurgen Melzer/Edouard Roger-Vasselin bt Jamie Murray/Neal Skupski 6-1, 7-6; Raven Klaasen/Oliver Marach bt Karen Khachanov/Andrey Rublev 6-2, 7-5; Matthew Ebden/Leander Paes bt Ivan Dodig/Filip Polasek 6-4, 6-3; Wesley Koolhof/Nikola Mektic bt Abdul Rahman Al Janahi/Fares Al Janahi 6-0, 6-1.