Nick Kyrgios is on the verge of a French Open seeding despite his straight-sets loss to Richard Gasquet in the Estoril Open final.
Kyrgios went down to the Frenchman 6-3 6-2 on Sunday, ending the 20-year-old’s hopes of a first tour title.
However, the Wimbledon and Australian Open quarter-finalist is set to leap in the rankings from world No.46 to a career-high No.33 when the ATP updates its standings on Monday night.
It will put Kyrgios one spot shy of his first grand slam seeding ahead of this month’s French Open, the tournament where he won a grand slam singles match on debut in 2013.
He will get a chance to climb into the top 32 over the next fortnight at the Madrid Masters and Rome Masters – both on clay – but a big obstacle looms in the Spanish capital.
If Kyrgios beats Spanish qualifier Daniel Gimeno-Traver in the first round, he’ll set up a second-round showdown with world No.2 Roger Federer.
Meanwhile, fellow Australian Bernard Tomic, who is also expected to play the same two tournaments, will be assured a French Open seeding in his current rank of 27th.
It took just over an hour for fifth-seeded Gasquet to see off seventh-seeded Kyrgios in Portugal and claim his 12th career title – and his second of 2015.
The win doubled as vengeance for Gasquet, in the pair’s first meeting since Kyrgios saved nine match points on his way to beating the world No.28 in the second round of Wimbledon last year.
Despite the loss, Kyrgios was pleased at his achievement in only his second tournament back following a six-week lay-off with an ankle problem.
“Playing in my first (ATP) final, there was definitely a bit of pressure out there,” he said.
“My serve was getting me through matches all week and today I don’t feel I served well.
“I was pleased with the way I was hitting the ball, but I didn’t take my opportunities.”
Kyrgios wasn’t the only one returning from an injury spell – it also marked Gasquet’s first competition since he hurt his back at the Indian Wells Masters in California two months ago.
The Frenchman earmarked Kyrgios as a force the world’s top players will need to be wary of.
“I needed to play a good clay-court match, to make him run. He’s a very good player, very powerful with a big forehand and big serve,” Gasquet said.
“It was a tough match and Nick put up a fight. He’s a very dangerous part of the future of the sport.”
Kyrgios, who turned 20 last Monday, was attempting to become the youngest title winner on the ATP tour this year and the first Australian in nearly two decades to claim a European ATP trophy on clay.
Despite the outcome, the Canberra-born star is well on his way to reviving his season after a shaky start when he struggled with various back, ankle and other injuries.