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Benoit Paire, of France, hits a return to Steve Johnson, of the United States, during the Winston-Salem Open tennis tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C., Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Benoit Paire, of France, hits a return to Steve Johnson, of the United States, during the Winston-Salem Open tennis tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C., Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)|Associated Press
Tennis

ATP Winston Salem Final: Abrams picks Benoit Paire vs Hubert Hurkacz

The match starts at 5 pm EDT

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Winston Salem Open

Winston Salem, NC

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Men’s Final

Benoit Paire over Hubert Hurkacz

I could probably write about Benoit Paire for an hour (and I have….) because of how different he is than the rest of the Touring pros. Heck, he’s not even like any of his French brethren, with his stiff serve which he barely gets off the ground on and how he keeps his back straight on that shot. With his shirt collar standing straight up, like some kind of cocky prep school adolescent. With his goofy two handed backhand that sometimes is adequate and sometimes not. With his temperament that is more fiery American or Italian than blasé and cool, like the rest of the French contingent.

But one thing I’ve learned about him this year after his horrendous start, is that he’s also different because he wins. He’s playing for his third title this year, and with the depth in the game today, he would be the biggest winner so far on the Tour if he completes his task. Federer has two, Djokovic has two, and to be mentioned in that kind of company gives us all the idea that this guy is no pushover. But I’d be remiss in not at least mentioning that he won his semifinal match here at the fabulous Wake Forest campus with a 1-6, 6-0, 6-0 romp over Yankee Stevie Johnson. How that match actually went down is a hard thing to explain, but the scores say it all.

To win his third title, Paire will have to overcome spirited 20-year-old Pole Hubert Hurkacz. Hurkacz rolled into the finals with two wins yesterday, first over Frances (Big Foe) Tiafoe, 6-1 in the third, and then over Canadian Denis Shapavalov, 3 and 4. Hurkacz has a big serve that comes down from his 6’5” frame, but it appears far more athletic than Paire’s, who is also 6’5”. Whether Hurkacz can serve Paire off the court is a far more difficult question to answer that only these two guys can decide. My guess is that whoever serves better will win, and that certainly could be Hurkacz. But Paire has shown me that he can be clutch with his various wins and three-set comebacks, so I like the Frenchman to take this title and the $96,505 check that goes along with it. Nonetheless, they both will take a great week and the additional confidence boost that they’ll get from it into the U.S. Open that starts on Monday.

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