Staying Focused, Good Results Coming Humbert’s Way

WASHINGTON/ANTWERP, October 24, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

No. 38 Ugo Humbert of France won his 19th ATP Tour-level match of the pandemic-interrupted season and moved reached his third semifinal of 2020 with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over 90th-ranked qualifier Lloyd Harris at the European Open in Antwerp on Friday.

The 22-year-old from Metz, who now resides in Luxembourg, played solidly against Harris of South Africa, hitting seven aces and winning 83 percent (29 of 35) of his first serve-points. He was broken just once during the one hour and 35-minute match in Lotto Arena. Humbert’s four breaks of Harris during the second-set tie-break was a difference maker.

Humbert, who lifted his first ATP Tour trophy in Auckland at the start of 2020 and also was a semifinalist in Delray Beach, both hard-court tournaments, was asked by Tennis TourTalk what honing in on a Top 30 ranking and reaching a semifinal this late in the season does for his confidence. He said: “I’m not thinking about rankings. I try to stay focused on my game and I try to play more aggressive. I’ve had good results the last two weeks. It’s really nice for me, a lot of confidence.”

Last week, in the round of 16 of the St. Petersburg Open in Russia, Humbert pushed then-World No. 10 Andrey Rublev to three sets before losing 7-5 in the third. This week, Humbert has dropped just one set in three rounds.

In the past year, Humbert has put in a lot of dedicated work – winning three ATP Challenger Tour titles – and he was a 2019 European Open semifinalist, losing to Andy Murray. Ranked 65th during Antwerp 12 months ago, Humbert admits he’s has seen a lot of improvements in his game. “I came back here because I love the tournament, I love the Center Court. I think I’m a different player [than last year], more vocal,” he said.

After beating World No.15 Pablo Carreño Busta and Harris in back-to-back rounds, Humbert said: “I felt something different in my game. I think I’m trying to do more on the court, to take the ball early. It’s making a difference,” he said.

With a big semifinal match ahead of him Saturday, against No. 35 Dan Evans, who upset No. 3 seed Karen Khachanov, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 in a two hour and 40-minute contentious quarterfinal, Humbert said before they took court that it didn’t matter whom he plays. “They’re all good, very tough against everyone. I’ll give it my best.”

European Open notes

• No. 5 seed Milos Raonic of Canada withdrew Friday morning with an abdominal strain. He was scheduled to play No. 4 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in Friday evening’s final quarterfinal match. Instead, Dimitrov is through to the semifinals with a walkover. He will face No. 8 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia, who beat 94th-ranked American qualifier Marcos Giron 6-3, 6-0, in just 58 minutes.

It is the 12th time in Raonic’s career that he’s retired before a match in a tournament and the second time prior to a match against Dimitrov.

Raonic has also withdrawn from next week’s ATP 500 Erste Bank Open in Vienna, Austria. His place in that draw has been taken by No. 31 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.

• British No. 1 Dan Evans, ranked 35th in the world, saved a match point at 5-6 during a second-set tie break against No. 3 seed Karen Khachanov. Then, he went on to win it, which forced a third set en route to his 3-6 7-6 (7), 6-4 tantrum-filled quarterfinal victory against the Russian.

At 7-all in the second-set tie break, Evans hit a forehand that clipped the sideline tape and was called in. With no Hawk-Eye at this ATP 250 event, Khachanov had no means of calling a challenge. He thought the ball was out and began to vehemently argue the call with chair umpire Adel Nour. “It’s a joke, it’s a joke,” Khachanov could be overheard saying. “Everyone can see it was out. What are you doing here? What are you doing here? You don’t need to be here.”

Out of frustration, Khachanov kicked the net and hit his racquet twice against the side of umpire’s chair as he stormed off the court after pleading his case to no avail.

During the final set, Evans won 14 of 16 first-serve points and closed out the win in two hours at 40 minutes to advance against No. 38 Ugo Humbert.

“It is nice to play these guys and it is why you play the sport, to play the better players,” said Evans, who improved to 7-6 against Top 20 players this season and is trying to be the third straight British champion in Antwerp following Kyle Edmund and Andy Murray. “I am pretty clear on how I have to play to beat them and that is what I do. I try to execute that plan and I have done that pretty good against the better guys.”