‘Super Happy’ Humbert Wins European Open Title

WASHINGTON/ANTWERP, October 25, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

When No. 8 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia met France’s Ugo Humbert for the first time in the singles final of the ATP 250 European Open in Antwerp, Belgium, Sunday afternoon, it marked the seventh career final for the top Aussie. So, it seemed, experience would matter for something.

Don’t tell that to the No. 38 Humbert, thought. After his remarkable semifinal comeback victory over British No. 1 Dan Evans in three hours and 12 minutes Saturday, in which he saved four match points to stave off defeat and reach the final, the affable young Frenchman was ready to do battle, again.

Guess what? Humbert came out attacking and looked impressive, too – and he beat the 29th-ranked de Minaur, 6-1, 7-6 (4), to lift his second ATP Tour trophy of the year inside an empty Lotto Arena Center Court. The victory boosted his provisional ranking to No. 29, a career-best achievement.

“It is one of my biggest wins today,” Humbert told Tennis TourTalk during his post-match videoconference. “I am super happy to win my second title this year against a really great player. [Alex] is really tough to play.

“I was aggressive like the previous matches and I am super happy to do it.”

As the end of the one hour and 37-minute title match neared, ahead 5-4 in the tiebreak, Humbert set up match point by winning an outstanding 18-shot rally that ended with de Minaur hitting his forehand return just a bit too long. Then, on championship point, Humbert capped a five-shot back-and-forth rally with a left-handed, forehand volley tap winner that de Minaur was unable to reach. It nicely closed out the championship victory for Humbert, who raised both of his arms in celebration of his accomplishment. After acknowledging de Minaur at the net, he walked over and shared congratulations with Nicolas Copin from the French Tennis Federation, who has been his coach this week in Antwerp.

“I think I played very nice on the key points, when I had break points, and in the tiebreak, I tried to play one by one to stay really focused and I did it,” Humbert said. “I’m super proud of myself. I’m super happy.”

De Minaur had not appeared in a title match since last year in Basel, while it was the second this year for Humbert, who won in Auckland, New Zealand, in January. Both de Minaur, 21, and Humbert, 22, have been part of the current and recent wave of Next Gen ATP stars, and each represents a bright hope for their respective countries.

“Obviously, Ugo played a very high level throughout the entire match,” de Minaur told Tennis TourTalk, remaining upbeat during his videoconference. “I thought I had a couple of chances, especially in the first set. A couple of break points and I missed two second-serve returns and he was able to recapitulate on his break-point opportunities. Then, again, second set I had my chances again. It just didn’t go my way. 

“I feel it was a very positive week for me. I definitely needed to get these matches under my belt.”

De Minaur, who began his stay in Antwerp winning Ultimate Tennis Showdown 3 last weekend before reaching the European Open final on Sunday, is off to Vienna, where he will face No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev in the first round of the ATP 500 Erste Bank Open. Meanwhile, Humbert can enjoy a week’s respite before playing the Paris Masters in Bercy starting November 2.

Peers/Venus 3-0 in doubles finals

No. 2 seeds John Peers of Australia and Michael Venus from New Zealand, appearing in their third ATP Tour doubles final of 2020 on Sunday, defeating unseeded Rohan Bopanna of India and Matwe Middelkoop from the Netherlands, 6-3, 6-4, in 58 minutes to win the European Open doubles title. They finished the tournament without dropping a set.

Not only have Peers and Venus reached the semifinals or better in four of their five tournament appearances since forming their partnership in Rome, they extended their unbeaten record in ATP Tour championship matches to 3-0.