PARIS - It was a close shave, but the bearded Benoit Paire's long run without a win on the main tour continued when he lost 5-7 4-6 3-6 6-1 6-4 to British 14th seed Cameron Norrie in the French Open first round on Monday.
The mercurial Paire, whose last win in the main draw of top-tier tournament dates back to August, made the most of his wildcard invitation, only to be punished for 81 unforced errors on court Suzanne Lenglen.
Paire, whose hot temper has often got him into trouble, was unusually composed and dished out 70 winners, but the result was a third consecutive in the first round at Roland Garros for the world number 149.
"It was an amazing match, he played really well and I'm glad to see him compete like that again," said Norrie. "We put on a good show in a great atmosphere. For the sport it was amazing."
Paire, barely bothered by his long, thick beard tickling his neck, broke for 4-3 on an unusually full Suzanne Lenglen Court at this time of the day.
Firing winners and unforced errors in almost equal measure, Paire allowed Norrie to level for 4-4 when he sent a forehand long.
Norrie saved five break points at 5-5 as his opponent started to show signs of frustration and after holding, the Briton went on to break Paire's serve and wrap up the first set.
The Frenchman broke for 2-1 and held to level the contest.
He broke again twice in the third set but Norrie pulled one back, only for Paire to bag the set on his opponent's serve to trigger a huge roar from the crowd.
Paire stood still and looked around as he soaked up the moment before letting out a big scream.
Norrie picked himself up and broke for 2-1 in the fourth set, which Paire then seemed to let slide in order to be fresh for the decider.
Although the Frenchman made an early break, however, Norrie levelled at 4-4 before sealing victory on his second match point.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)