Canadian Milos Raonic concluded his breakthrough season Monday by dropping a three-set decision to Julien Benneteau in the first round of the Paris Masters.
The French qualifier used drop volleys to win the last two points in the 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory. Raonic had 39 unforced errors and 22 aces in the match, but failed to convert on his only break opportunity.
“I don't think it was really that bad today,” Raonic said. “He just played really well and played better than me. He took his chances, and he capitalized on his opportunities.”
The 20-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., was playing in the tournament's main draw for the first time. It was his first career meeting against the 54th-ranked Benneteau.
“I only had one break point, but in a lot of games I was getting halfway there but I wasn't converting,” Raonic said. “Half of it was him serving very well, always on the big points. It was just tough. I didn't get my opportunities.
“The game he broke me he hit three winners. It's well played by him.”
It was a tough way to cap a tremendous season for Raonic, who soared to No. 29 on the ATP's world rankings. He won his first ATP Tour title last February in San Jose and reached the final in Memphis a week later.
Raonic, who finished the campaign with a 31-19 record, was playing his fifth tournament since retiring in the second round at Wimbledon and undergoing hip surgery last July.
“The first two weeks, three weeks, I was playing quite well,” Raonic said. “I was struggling a little bit in the first rounds just to get my feet under me and especially the confidence part of it, but I was losing to all top guys.”
The hard-serving Canadian returned to the tour last month in Tokyo after playing in the Davis Cup in Israel. His best post-surgery performance was a semifinal appearance at the Stockholm Open, where he lost to eventual champion Gael Monfils.
Raonic will play American Pete Sampras in an exhibition match at Air Canada Centre on Nov. 17 before enjoying his off-season break. The Canadian will likely be seeded for the next Grand Slam event — the Australian Open — in January.