Gilles Simon rallied to beat Julien Benneteau 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in an all-French match in the first round of the Paris Masters on Monday.
In their ninth career meeting dating back to 2007, Simon cracked Benneteau’s resistance in a tense first game of the deciding set and won the next three to go 4-0 up.
“Julien’s a very good player and you always have to be wary of him,” Simon said. “It was a tough match and I’m glad I reacted well to get through.”
Benneteau had won three of their past four meetings, but Simon is now 5-4 ahead. He saved seven of eight break points and broke Benneteau three times – twice in the deciding set.
The 23rd-ranked Simon has reached the Shanghai Masters semifinals and the Miami Masters quarterfinals this season.
“I’m trying to finish the season strongly,” the 31-year-old Simon said. “It’s always good to finish well to get things going for next year.”
He next faces 10th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut and leads the Spaniard 3-1 overall.
Bautista Agut is one of seven players in Paris vying for the two remaining spots at the season-ending ATP finals in London.
Dominic Thiem and Marin Cilic, who won the Swiss Indoors on Sunday, had the last two places heading to Paris.
Tomas Berdych, David Goffin, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lucas Pouille and Bautista Agut are the other contenders and are also playing here.
Berdych, who won the 2005 Paris Masters, must reach the semifinals to qualify. He faces Portugal’s Joao Sousa on Tuesday and could then face Bautista Agut in the third round.
Tsonga faces Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who downed 36-year-old Frenchman Stephane Robert 6-1, 6-4 in Monday’s last match.
Earlier, Frenchman Benoit Paire’s 14 aces were not enough as Italian Paolo Lorenzi won 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Lorenzi took his only chance on Paire’s serve in the first set and saved the one break point he faced in the second. He plays 16th-seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay.
Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain downed Italian Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-1 and faces fourth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada, who is feeling the effects of an ankle injury that forced him to withdraw ahead of his China Open semifinal three weeks ago.
Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, an Australian Open finalist 10 years ago, won 6-2, 6-4 against Paul-Henri Mathieu and faces 14th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
American Steve Johnson had eight aces in a 6-4, 7-5 win against Guido Pella of Argentina, setting up a match against 12th-seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
Sousa saved all six chances on his serve as he beat Italian Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-4, while German Jan-Lennard Struff did not concede a single chance on serve in a 6-1, 6-1 win against Illya Marchenko.
Spaniard Fernando Verdasco was up 6-2, 3-2 against Robin Haase when the Dutchman retired with a left hip injury.
Verdasco is up against second-ranked Andy Murray, who will move top of the world rankings if he wins the tournament and Novak Djokovic does not reach the final.
Djokovic, whose 66 career titles include a record 30 in Masters tournaments, is chasing his fourth straight title in Paris and fifth overall.
The Serb opens against either Nicolas Almagro of Spain or Gilles Muller, who play their first-round match late on Tuesday.
Djokovic leads Almagro 4-0 and Muller 3-0 in career meetings, while Murray is 11-1 against Verdasco. There are two other American players in Tuesday’s remaining first-round action.
Big-serving John Inser takes on Mischa Zverev – seven years after their other meeting – and Jack Sock plays Philipp Kohlschreiber for the first time.