LYON, France – Félix Auger-Aliassime didn’t win the battle Saturday in the Lyon final.
And he may have lost the war as well.
The 18-year-old pulled his left adductor in his semifinal win over No. 1 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili Friday.
And although he didn’t think it was that serious at the time, and he felt okay in the first set of his final Saturday against France’s Benoit Paire. It got worse as the match went on.
Paire won the match 6-4, 6-3 with some impeccable tennis – at the level he had played the entire week, if not better. And he could tell Auger-Aliassime was at less than 100 per cent.
But the big prize lies ahead, as the French Open begins Sunday.
Auger-Aliassime doesn’t play until Tuesday. But that’s not much time to resolve the situation. He said he was going to have some tests done, and not make the recision immediately.
Here he is talking about that, and other matters, in his post-match press conference. (Tennis.Life has handily subtitled the video for those who aren’t fluent in la langue de Molière).
Auger-Aliassime said he felt okay in the first set. But Paire was on a mission. He served well, he returned well, he made the Canadian play on his terms.
If Auger-Aliassime missed a fair number of backhand volleys, it was also because Paire made him hit every volley.
There might have been a different play in a match that everyone knows depends on Paire’s wonky forehand.
Auger-Aliassime did the right thing in serving to his forehand most of the time. But, especially on the deuce side when he went wide, he most often directed the second shot to the other corner – to Paire’s peerless backhand.
And once that happened, as well as the Frenchman was returning, the points became his to dictate.
To be fair, though, it’s hard to know if Auger-Aliassime just wasn’t able to properly execute the game plan because of the discomfort with the adductor. He picked his spots in terms of balls to chase down in the second set. It was pretty clear, even if there weren’t many grimaces or outward signs of distress, that he wasn’t okay.
Auger-Aliassime doing everything right
The Canadian, who lost his first match in three years in Lyon after taking a Challenger there in both 2017 and 2018, hit all the right notes.
He truly is an old soul. Despite his tender age, he seems to know exactly the right things to say. He remembers the names of the tournament staff whose help he appreciated. He called the ballkids’ work “impeccable” – which you know they loved.
Auger-Aliassime navigated the sign-and-selfie line (which got bigger every day of the tournament) with patience and good cheer.
The gushing praise heaped on him by Paire during the trophy ceremony definitely does not come out of nowhere.
Auger-Aliassime is quickly becoming an example of a player who is fiercely competitive on court, but the best sort of chap off the court.
Big decisions to make
The Canadian has two days to make a decision on whether the French Open is a go.
It is to be his main-draw debut. And he’s seeded. And his first-round opponent is a competent player who doesn’t seem to adore the European clay. Jordan Thompson will set foot on it in an official way for the first time on Tuesday.
But the other element involved is that it’s best-of-five sets.
Auger-Aliassime also has a big grass-court season ahead – his first as a pro. The last time he set foot on the lawns was as a junior in 2016, when he lost in the quarterfinals of the boys’ singles to Alex de Minaur.