When he heads on court for Saturday's ASB Classic final, Benoit Paire's bag will feel a little lighter.

That's because he has only two racquets left, after smashing the rest during an eventful week in Auckland.

The world No 24 has mixed chaos and charisma, magic and mayhem, and was at his unpredictable best in Friday night's semi-final, overcoming a complete meltdown in the second set tiebreak to come back and beat sixth seed Hubert Hurkacz 6-4 6-7 (1) 6-2 in one hour 50 minutes.

Paire lost his composure as a fan was repeatedly calling out "C'mon Benny" — in a sarcastic manner — when the 30-year-old was in the motion of serving. It distracted him at 5-6 in the second set, then at the beginning of the tiebreak, when he double faulted.


"Every time the same guy, C'mon Benny Benny," said a furious Paire on court during the tiebreak, imitating the spectator, as he complained to the umpire, who repeatedly asked the crowd for silence.

Benoit Paire of France. Photo / AP
Benoit Paire of France. Photo / AP

Paire served another double fault at 1-5 in the breaker, then smashed his racket into the court, incurring a point penalty and gifting the set to his opponent. But from that emotional abyss he recovered, edging ahead in the third set with a break, which he never relinquished.

Paire admitted after the match that his outburst allowed him to reset.

"Honestly it was good," said Paire. "The tension of the racket was not good, so I had to change it. It was my solution. But honestly I have to break one racket to start with a new match, a new set and a new game. [But] I have two left, so I have to be careful. If I lose the first set [today] it's dangerous for me."

He also apologised for his outburst, though the spectator was clearly at fault.

"I can understand people enjoying with a beer and wine, I would do the same if I was them," said Paire. "It's my fault if I become a little bit crazy it's because I am nervous. I would like to win more easier, but it is never easy.

"At 6-5 during my first and second serves, someone was saying 'C'mon Benny", added Paire. "Between the first and second serve already I am very stressed, I make some double faults. I just said, if it is possible not before the first and second. And first point of tiebreak, when I made my double fault, it was the case. But it's my fault. I have to stay focussed, I can't listen to everyone."

Paire will face compatriot Ugo Humbert on Saturday, guaranteeing the first French champion in the history of the event, after five previous runners-up from the Gallic country (1973, Patrick Proisy; 1991 Jean-Philippe Fleurian; 2002, Jerome Golmard; 2010, Arnaud Clement; 2015, Adrian Mannarino).


The 21-year-old Humbert managed a convincing 7-6 (5), 6-4 win over two time champion John Isner on Friday night.

Paire and Humbert have met once before, with Paire prevailing 3-6 7-6 (2) 6-3 last year at Winston Sale