Benoit Paire makes stunning Davis Cup debut as France lead Spain
Benoit Paire made a remarkable Davis Cup debut for France, outplaying Pablo Carreno-Busta 7-5 6-1 6-0 in the opening rubber of the World Group semi-final tie against Spain at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Friday.
Paire had never been selected for his country in the 'World Cup of tennis' before, admitting himself that his explosive, erratic performances on court meant he could previously never properly be trusted.
Yet he has grown into a much more reliable and consistent performer in 2018 which prompted the champions' captain Yannick Noah to select him for his first tie at the unlikely age of 29 and he was rewarded with a virtuoso performance against a doughty opponent.
French player Benoit Paire returns the ball to Spanish player Pablo Carreno Busta during the Davis Cup semi-final tennis match between France and Spain in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, northern France, on September 14, 2018.Getty Images
Playing with real flair, not holding back and looking as if he was made for Davis Cup theatrics, Paire also showed real heart when struggling in the first set as he three times had to battle back from a set point down.
Paire, the world number 54, started with predictable unpredictability, delivering nine double faults in the opening set but after saving the set points with steel, the bearded shotmaker was freed to play his most attractive tennis.
French player Benoit Paire celebrates after winning his tennis match against Spanish player Pablo Carreno Busta during the Davis Cup semi-final between France and Spain in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, northern France, on September 14, 2018.Getty Images
From 3-5 down, he rallied to win the next nine games and, in total, 16 of the last 17 as his all-court attacking approach made Carreno Busta seem flat-footed and just a little lost as he succumbed in less than two hours.
Lucas Pouille, who annexed the winning point in last year's final in the same stadium, was next on court, hoping to give the champions a 2-0 lead against Roberto Bautista Agut.