Cameron Norrie manages to beat Benoit Paire in five sets

For the second time in four editions, there appeared to be a British exit in Paris as Norrie trailed Suzanne Lenglen 4-2 in the deciding set after Jack Draper had to retire through injury.

But 14th seeded Norrie showed his fighting skills again and claimed a 7-5, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory after three hours and 33 minutes.

And he can expect even more of that in Round 2 when he takes on the resurgent Lucas Pouille, who was the star of Roland Garros this week after surviving qualifying through injury and personal troubles.

“It was a fantastic game,” said Norrie. “All credit goes to Benoit. He played really well. He made it really difficult. Great atmosphere, thank you everyone for supporting each other, it was great. I’m happy to be through after a really difficult race.”

Paire, who has one of the best beards in the sport but not the best temper, flirted with retirement at the age of 34 and entered the event as a wildcard in 134th place.

When they met in the same round at the US Open last summer, Norrie won two lightning sets 6-0 on either side of a contested second, with Paire grabbing his bag before the game was over.

Benoit PaireThe bearded Benoit Paire (Christophe Ena/AP)

The Frenchman said afterwards it could have been his last game but he decided to continue and his attitude was much better here.

He probably should have won a fighting first set that lasted nearly an hour, went 4-3 and then had seven more break points after Norrie leveled.

The 27-year-old has been struggling for wins for the past two months after a brilliant start to the season and his groundstrokes have not been as sure as British tennis fans have been accustomed to.

Norrie’s greatest weapon is his consistency, but here he was in a quandary between dropping shots too short or pushing them too far, and it was his fighting spirit and a reliable long serve on Paire’s backhand that helped him through the first set.

Norrie looked a little more relaxed early in the second set and immediately had a break ball, but he was the one who was 2-1 down after a contentious moment when referee Nico Helwerth threw him a point for what appeared to be a very tough call at 30-30 , the official claimed Norrie yelled during the game.

The crowd was in full swing as Paire managed to equalize and the French national anthem sang around Suzanne Lenglen as her man broke again in the third set to take a 2-1 lead.

With Paire benefiting from the support, Norrie was kept from behind and there was party spirit in this corner of Paris as the Frenchman went two sets to a lead.

The fourth set flew by, with Paire starting early and then seemingly saving himself for the decider as Norrie returned the initiative to his opponent with an early game full of errors.

But the British no. 1 kept his head up and his attempts paid off with a break to make it 4-4 before Paire eventually broke through.

Grace Reader

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