Paire Beats Auger-Aliassime For Lyon Title
Frenchman Benoit Paire denied #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime his first ATP Tour title on Saturday, defeating the 18-year-old sensation 6-4, 6-3 to triumph at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon.
"I think I played well already in Marrakech. I started the season a little bit bad with some injuries... so it was not easy at the beginning," Paire said. "But I feel much better now. I feel good on court, I feel very confident. When you feel confident, you can win a lot of matches against good players."
Auger-Aliassime, the youngest player to reach at least two tour-level finals since Andy Murray in 2005-06, was trying to become the youngest ATP Tour champion since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori in Delray Beach 11 years ago. But Paire was locked in from the first game of the match, claiming his third ATP Tour crown after one hour and 20 minutes after Auger-Aliassime missed a backhand half volley long.
The 30-year-old entered April with just one tour-level title, but having also won Marrakech, he has now captured two trophies in less than two months. Paire struggled to start the season, going 4-9 on hard courts in 2019. But he has found his rhythm on the red clay, moving to 12-3 on the surface this year. Paire is the sixth player to earn two ATP Tour titles in 2019, joining Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Cristian Garin, Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
"I expect a lot for Roland Garros now," said Paire, who will face Marius Copil in the first round. "[I want to] win a lot of matches. I don't know how many... 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 and we will see if I could do it."
Paire wasted no time challenging Auger-Aliassime's serve, earning two break points in the first game of the match. Although the Frenchman did not convert, that early pressure set the tone for the match. In his next service game, Auger-Aliassime double faulted the break to Paire, who never wavered.
The World No. 51 had chances to go up a double-break later in the opener, but his favoured two-handed backhand let him down. It did not cost him though, closing out the set without difficulty.
Paire let slip an early break in the second set. But again, Auger-Aliassime was unable to capitalise, as the Frenchman continued to keep him off balance, both from the baseline and in other facets of the game. Paire consistently forced the teen to play from uncomfortable positions, at the back of the court and even when he came to net. While Paire's forehand is typically the first of his shots to break down, it held firm throughout the final.
At 2-2 in the second set, Paire hit a forehand return winner from well off the court to earn a break point right after losing his serve for the first time in the match, and Auger-Aliassime, who began to look physically hampered as the match wore on, missed an inside-in forehand wide to return that break. The Frenchman never looked back from there, winning all but five of his first-serve points.
Paire, who fell to No. 69 in ATP Rankings on March 4 — his lowest mark since 1 June 2015 — gains 250 points, which is projected to propel him into the Top 40 on Monday. He also earns €90,390 in prize money.
Auger-Aliassime will be disappointed to fall short of his first title, but it was an impressive week nonetheless for the teen, who is the youngest Top 30 player since Lleyton Hewitt in 1999. The Canadian earns 150 points, which will help him climb to a career-high World No. 22, and €48,870.
"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."
Did You Know?
Two of this ATP 250 tournament's three winners have been French home favourites. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga captured the trophy in 2017.