LYON, France — Felix Auger-Aliassime lost a swift 6-4, 6-3 decision to France’s Benoit Paire in the Lyon Open final Saturday, spoiling the Canadian teenager’s chance at his first ATP Tour title and potentially putting his health into question for the French Open.
Paire converted on 4-of-9 break points to win in one hour 22 minutes in a match that saw the 18-year-old from Montreal laboured by a groin injury.
"I had a good week even though it didn’t end the way I wanted, not playing the way I wanted or being physically well," Auger-Aliassime said. "There’s disappointment because these finals don’t come around often but there’s a lot of positives to take from that week. Hopefully I give myself other chances for titles."
Auger-Aliassime had soared into the Lyon final with a 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 comeback win over Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili on Friday.
He has had success in the French city in the past, winning a challenger tournament there the last two years in a row.
Auger-Aliassime was seeded fourth at the ATP 250 clay tournament, which serves as a warmup event for the French Open.
"Lyon is special for me. Every time I come here I feel like I’m at home," Auger-Aliassime said. "They’ve been treating us well. The staff and tournament have taken great care of us. Every time you come to these events you remember why you play."
The second Grand Slam of the season begins Sunday in Paris, where Auger-Aliassime would be seeded at a major for the first time.
He is scheduled to face Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the first round on Monday.
Auger-Aliassime didn’t make it through qualifying at the Australian Open, the season’s first Grand Slam tournament, and has yet to win a main-draw match at a major in his career.
Auger-Aliassime bowed out of last year’s French Open in the second round of qualifying.
He has enjoyed a steady climb this year, rising from No. 108 at the start of 2019 to No. 28 as of Saturday. His run to the Lyon final will put him at a career-high No. 22 when the next rankings are released, and make him the second highest Canadian on the ATP Tour — below Milos Raonic and ahead of Denis Shapovalov.
Paire’s win was his second clay-court title in two months. He also raised the trophy in Marrakech, Morocco, in April.
Paire, whose only other career title came four years ago at the Swedish Open, improved to 12-3 on clay this season entering the French Open.
"I expect a lot for Roland Garros now," said Paire, who opens against Marius Copil in Paris. "(I want to) win a lot of matches. … If physically I feel 100 per cent, I hope I can go to the second week because for a Slam it would be my first time in Paris, so that’s my goal."
— With files from The Associated Press