Andy Murray reached the final of the ATP Challenger event in Aix-en-Provence to boost his preparations on clay before Roland-Garros.
The Scot secured a return to the top 50 with a victory over Harold Mayot to stay the course for his first title since Antwerp in 2019.
Murray, currently ranked 52, took a late wild card in the second-tier tournament after losing in the first round of the Madrid Open and rose to the occasion with four straight wins.
They all came against French players, and Murray comfortably brushed aside 241-ranked 21-year-old Mayot 7-5 6-1 to set up a final against the American. Tommy Paul.
One of the consequences of the decision to extend the clay-court Masters tournaments in Madrid and Rome to two weeks each has been the strong Challenger fields this week, with Paul a top-20 player and Open semi-finalist. from Australia in January.
Murray is in his first clay-court final since Roland-Garros in 2016, and he told atptour.com: “[It will be] a big challenge for me. Tommy has had a great year so far, playing the best tennis of his career.
“He’s played well this week as well. He’s a brilliant athlete. I think my game is good. I feel like I’ve played a lot better the last two games. [I] I hope for another good performance tomorrow.”
Murray certainly gained confidence over the week and did well with a run of seven in a row, with Mayot bowing out under pressure by double faulting to give away the first set.
Finishing games has been difficult for Murray at times in recent years and he faltered slightly, missing two match points at 5-0 before finally taking his fifth chance to land it.
This is Murray’s second final of the season after the ATP Tour event in Doha in February, where he lost to Daniil Medvedev.
If Murray beat Paul, he would win his first Challenger-level trophy in 18 years.
He would also climb just outside the top 40, giving a major boost to his Wimbledon seeding hopes.