Paire-Félix: a new bromance

LYON, France – Benoit Paire might have felt a little badly beating Félix Auger-Aliassime in the Lyon final Saturday.

Not enough to give him a shot at the title, as the 30-year-old Frenchman had an impeccable tournament.

And if he’s a little tired physically, he now has great momentum going into his home-country Grand Slam.

But when it was over, the Frenchman had almost no reaction.

And he quickly rushed to the net to console Auger-Aliassime, who had clearly been dealing with an injury in the second set.

Only after all that, after the handshakes, did Paire allow himself to leap with joy.

It was really kind of nice. There isn’t anyone around the game that we’ve spoken to about the 18-year-old Canadian – media, other players, tournament staff – who have anything but heaps of praise for the kid.

A shutout in his speech

Beyond all the concern at the net, Paire went out of his way to heap lavish praise on Auger-Aliassime as a human being during the trophy ceremony.

It was enough to make a guy blush. But Auger-Aliassime handled it with the equanimity that has been a major feature of his quick maturing process at the pro level.

Félix looks for maiden title in Lyon

LYON, France – One more win, and Félix Auger-Aliassime will ride into Roland Garros with his first ATP Tour title safely secured.

After a tough, physically demanding comeback win over No. 1 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in the Lyon semifinal Friday, he’ll face home-country favorite Benoit Paire in Saturday’s final.

Auger-Aliassime was just a few points away from defeat in the second set, before winning 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 in two hours and 16 minutes on a very warm day.

There wasn’t a lot the 18-year-old Canadian could do at the start of the match, as Basilashvili was on a major roll on service return. As hard as Auger-Aliassime was serving, the return was coming back almost as quickly. 

Basilashvili was significantly more engaged in this match than he was in their first meeting, just a couple of months ago in Miami. That one went Auger-Aliassime’s way in two close sets, but it didn’t feel that close.

Here’s what it looked like on Friday.

Tough, physical rallies

On Friday in Lyon, the Georgian was crushing the ball. And the effort it took from Auger-Aliassime to win even a few of the baseline rallies was considerable. He wasn’t being allowed to play his game.

But he stayed the course. Ultimately, he pulled out the tiebreak, and had Basilashvili muttering to himself, in several languages.

But even if Basilashvili can sometimes be less than committed when the going gets tough, that was not the case in this match. He fought until the very last point. And it was Auger-Aliassime who felt the effects physically.

He took a medical timeout as his left adductor started pulling. But he needed to be able to stretch it to the fullest to defend on a number of points late in the match. And it held up.

Lyon

Felix passes Shapovalov in the rankings

With the victory, Auger-Aliassime will pass his friend Denis Shapovalov in the ATP Tour rankings on Monday.

As they say, it’s on – in a rivalry that will make both better players, and which it appears they will handle with great brotherhood.

Here’s what Auger-Aliassime had to say after the match (in French, with Tennis.Life providing the subtitles) on the match, on Benoit Paire, on the adductor issue and on the intra-Canadian rivalry with Shapovalov.

And here are a few reactions in English on some of the more basic stuff.

We’ll have lots more from Lyon after the Canadian’s second final of the season, after the 500 in Rio back in February.