Another day, another nail-biting three-set battle for a surging Ugo Humbert in Halle. The 22-year-old Frenchman fought past Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5) on Saturday to reach his first ATP 500 final at the NOVENTI OPEN.
Humbert has been made to work all week long, with all of his matches in Halle going the distance and to at least one tie-break set in each as he took down Sam Querrey, third seed Alexander Zverev and Sebastian Korda to book his second battle in as many weeks against Auger-Aliassime.
Last week in Stuttgart, it was Auger-Alisassime who triumphed after a tight 7-6(5), 7-6(8) victory on his way to the MercedesCup final (l. to Cilic). But Humbert turned the tables in Halle to improve to 2-1 in his ATP Head2Head against the Canadian, with all three of their matches taking place on grass courts.
“It was an amazing match from both of us, but it was very tough physically and mentally,” Humbert said in an on-court interview. “I’m very proud to win this match, it was exceptional.
“It gives me a lot of confidence [winning matches like this], and when you win some matches 7-6 two times in the third set.”
Humbert will take on fourth seed Andrey Rublev in the final as he seeks the biggest title of his career. The Frenchman owns two ATP Tour titles and a perfect 2-0 record in finals, both coming at the ATP 250 level at Antwerp and Auckland last year. His opponent, Rublev, owns four ATP 500 titles (4-1 in those finals) and leads the Tour with 74 victories in 2020-21. Rublev won their only previous tour-level meeting last year in St. Petersburg.
At the OWL Arena in Halle, Humbert wasted no time as he recovered from an early break and raced ahead in the first set. The Frenchman’s relentless attack took time away from Auger-Aliassime, leaving him on the defensive and struggling to handle his opponent’s pace.
The Frenchman had break points for a 4-1 lead in the second set, but Auger-Aliassime raised his level and cut down on his unforced errors as he settled into the contest. He reeled off the last five games in a row to take the set and level the score, and he looked to be in complete control as he created five break opportunities across two of Humbert’s service games late in the third set.
But Humbert refused to drop his serve as he stayed toe-to-toe with Auger-Aliassime, rushing to net regularly where he won 10 of 13 points played. The #NextGenATP Canadian fired his 12th ace of the match (14 in total) to save a match point at 4-5 to take them into a tie-break, and saved two more with big first serves. Humbert stayed focussed, firing a big first serve of his own to earn a forehand return long to seal the victory.
The Frenchman improved to 13-13 on the season with the win, and extended his career grass-court win rate to 12-5.