UTS2 : Group B up for grabs after Verdasco defeats Paire

All four players in Group B at UTS2 have 1-1 records following the first weekend of action thanks to Fernando Verdasco’s victory over Benoit Paire.

Fernando Verdasco playing UTS2, July 2020

In his UTS debut, Fernando Verdasco picked up his first win by beating Benoit Paire 17-13, 19-11, 17-14, 12-20 on Sunday night. El Fuego won almost all of the key points in quarters one through three before Paire at least managed to get on the scoreboard by taking the fourth frame.

That single quarter for Paire could end up being a factor in Group B even though The Rebel lost the overall match to Verdasco. All four players – Paire, Verdasco, Dustin Brown, and Corentin Moutet – all have 1-1 records. A quarters won tiebreaker among the players who finish 2-1 will end up deciding the group winner.

Ranking group B UTS2 - 26th July

El Fuego comes out on fire

Paire never came particularly close to being the winner in this one, as it was all Verdasco right from the start. El Fuego raced to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Paire used a steal serve card to get within striking distance at 7-9, but success was short-lived for The Rebel. A next point counts two success for El Fuego resulted in an 11-8 lead and after utilising a stealing serve against his opponent he got a second consecutive winner off the net cord.

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“I think I started pretty well, the first seven points,” Verdasco reflected. “With this format you never know; everything comes and goes so fast. He started coming back and I got a little bit tight. But I played the last points well.”

“I didn’t make a good start,” the Frenchman lamented. “I came back, but in the end I got a little bit unlucky. He played well.”

Verdasco extends his lead

Paire started stronger in quarter two, but Verdasco tied things up at 8-8 by winning both points when he took a first serve away from The Rebel. El Fuego immediately played his next point counts two card and won one of those efforts for a 10-9 advantage. Paire eventually had a golden chance to take a 14-13 lead but missed an easy volley while using the winner times three card. That instead left Verdasco with a 14-11 edge, all but ending the quarter.

“We were super equal until the last few minutes,” the Spaniard admitted. “I took advantage of my second point plus two and he did not take advantage of his winner times three. I knew I had to take the risk of seeing if he made the winner. I was lucky there. Obviously three points there would have changed the quarter.”

“I’m so stupid,” Paire said. “I missed the volley for three points. It’s so easy. Even my mother can make that volley. I just have to put the volley and it’s over. It’s my fault…. Maybe I have to drink alcohol. I’m much better with alcohol.”

It’s over!

Clearly in a fragile mental state trailing 2-0, Paire used his next point counts double on the very first point of the third quarter. Although he double-faulted, The Rebel at least managed to win the next point for an early 2-1 lead. He used his second card right away, as well, taking away one serve from Verdasco. That was mostly unsuccessful, too, whereas El Fuego later capitalized on two straight next point counts double cards for an 11-7 lead. The 36-year-old soon led 15-12 thanks to a winner counts three conversion – again with the help of the net cord. That came with less than a minute left, so it all but ended the quarter…and the match. And it left The Rebel blasting tennis balls out of the court in frustration.

“All my life I have bad luck,” Paire stated. “That’s my life.”

“It feels pretty good after the way that I lost yesterday,” Verdasco assured. “I know this is not an official tournament, but not one of us likes to lose. Benoit now is throwing everything outside the court. The cameraman was laughing when he hit one ball outside the court and I was laughing at the cameraman.”

Paire pulls even in total sets

Paire’s fourth-quarter victory leaves him with a 4-4 record in total sets following his 3-1 defeat of Brown on Saturday. The Rebel is plus-8 in total points, which is the best of Group B. Verdasco, meanwhile, is 5-4 in total quarters – the only one of the group with a winning record in quarters.

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