Wimbledon: Humbert, Niemeier Pull Off Pair Of Big Upsets

Ugo Humbert (photo: Wimbledon video)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Ugo Humbert is nothing if not a survivor. Grass, it seems, is his saving grace.

On Wednesday, as Day 3 of the Wimbledon Championships unfolded at the All England Club, the Frenchman’s dismal season took an about-face as he upset third seed Casper Ruud in four sets to reach the third round for the second time.

The World No. 6 from Norway, who lost 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 to Humbert, is the highest seeded man to fall thus far at Wimbledon.

Ruud wasn’t the only high seed to bow out of the Championships early. He was joined on the women’s side by No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, who bowed to unheralded Jule Niemeier of Germany, 6-4, 6-0, in under an hour on No. 1 Court.

Humbert, 24, arrived at Wimbledon with a disappointing 5-15 ATP Tour win-loss record this season. His ranking has dipped to No. 125 after peaking at No. 25 last year. After needing five sets and nearly three-and-a-half hours to beat Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry on Monday, the French left-hander was rewarded for surviving another lengthy battle. He broke Ruud’s serve six times during the two-hour and 36-minute match on No. 2 Court and hit 53 winners.

Although Humbert has done well on grass in the past, advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019 and winning the title at Halle last year, Ruud hasn’t. He’s now 3-5 on grass courts, a novice compared to his prowess on clay and hard courts.

“I love to play on grass. I have played a lot of good matches,” Humbert said in his on-court interview, beaming a big smile. “I think about the match last year against Kyrgios. It was a big battle. I [have] won Halle, so I think I play very nice [on grass] because of my serve, and my backhand is very great.”

Next, Humbert will face No. 58 David Goffin of Belgium. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up advanced with an upset of No. 31 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 and has a clean slate after two rounds.

Niemeier’s first Top-10 victory was a memorable one

Meanwhile, the 97th-ranked Niemeier, a 22-year-old native of Dortmund, won by playing bold and aggressively against the World No. 3 Kontaveit, a much more-experienced opponent but one who has been dealing with the after-effects of COVID-19. Her victory advanced her to play 101st-ranked Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in the third round. It’s unchartered territory at a major for Niemeier but she’s delighted to be there.

“I’m speechless to be honest,” said Niemeier, who celebrated her biggest win with a giant fist pump. “It’s one of the biggest wins of my career so far. Winning the match here at Wimbledon on Court No. 1. [It] is such an amazing feeling.”

Niemeier won seven straight games to close out the second-round victory. She outpointed Kontaveit 54-34 by hitting 13 winners to 13 unforced errors and didn’t face any break points on her serve.

“It was one of the best matches I played,” said Niemeier of her first Top-10 victory. “I was pretty nervous before the match I have to say. Because I didn’t know the court, I couldn’t warm up on the court. I’m happy with how I could handle the situation today.”

Tsurenko, an Eastbourne quarterfinalist last week, came from a break down in the final set to defeat fellow Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, to reach the third round at Wimbledon for the first time since 2017 and second time overall.

Djokovic counts his blessings after beating Kokkinakis

“I’m really blessed to be here,” men’s No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic expressed during his on-court interview on Centre Court, after he defeated No. 79 Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, in just over two hours for his 23rd straight win on Wimbledon grass. “It was a very high-quality performance. I started off very well, very solid from the back of the court and made him work for every point where I managed to get his serve back in play.

“I tried to work him round the court and bring a lot of variety,” the World No. 3 Djokovic added. “I’m quite pleased with the way I’ve raised my level of tennis in two days. Hopefully, I can keep that trajectory going as the tournament progresses.”

Djokovic overcame 11 aces and 31 winners from Kokkinakis by winning 82 percent of his first-serve points, controlling the net by winning 30 of 38 approaches and hit 29 winners to just 14 unforced errors. The Serbian outpointed his opponent 95-65

In Friday’s third round, Djokovic will play fellow Serbian and No. 25 seed Miomir Kecmanovic, who survived a four-set battle against 78th-ranked Alejandro Tabilo of Chile, winning 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3 in just under three hours on Court 15.

Isner fires 36 aces, beats Murray for the first time

Big-serving American John Isner scored his first career victory over Great Britain’s Andy Murray Wednesday evening on Centre Court. His 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (3), 6-4 win, which was completed with the roof closed due to darkness, was Isner’s first against the Briton in nine meetings.

It lifted the No. 20 seed Isner into the third round for the first time since he reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2018.

The 37-year-old Isner fired a total of 36 aces during the three-hour, 23-minute match, falling just short of the career mark of 13,728 set by Ivo Karlovic. His 82 winners more than offset his 32 unforced errors. By comparison, Murray put up 39 winners to 13 unforced errors. Isner saved the only two break points he faced from Murray, which came in the first set, and outpointed his 52nd-ranked opponent 132-124. Isner needs only five aces in his third-round match, against No. 10 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy, to surpass Karlovic.

“At the age I’m at now I need to relish these moments,” Isner said during his on-court interview following the conclusion of the second-round match, which ended close to 9:30 p.m. London time. “This was one of the biggest wins of my career just given the atmosphere. It was fantastic.

“To play as well as I did against one of our greatest players, Andy Murray, was a huge accomplishment for me. He’s a massive inspiration to each one of us in the locker room and we’re so lucky to still have him around.”

When Isner was asked how he managed to hold off Murray, especially with the 15,000-strong crowd cheering mostly for the British great.

“I served,” Isner said, smiling and laughing. He won 84 percent of his first-serve points. “Thats’ really all it came down to. I guess I didn’t give him many opportunities to spin his web and get me tangled up in it. Because if I got embroiled in too many rallies with him, this wasn’t going to go well for me. I had an incredible serving day and I needed every single bit of it to beat him.”

Brit-watch: Norrie survives, Radacanu loses on Centre Court

Great Britain’s top men’s and women’s players, Cameron Norrie and Emma Raducanu. were both in action during Day 3 at Wimbledon. The World No. 12 Norrie, seeded ninth, survived a tough five-setter against No. 71 Jaume Minaur of Spain and won, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2, in three hours and 13 minutes.

Meanwhile, the World No. 11 and 10th seed Raducanu fell victim to a surging Caroline Garcia of France, who beat the reigning US Open champion, 6-3, 6-3, in her Centre Court debut. The 55th-ranked Garcia, who won last week’s grass-court title at Bad Homburg, Germany, has won seven straight on grass.

“I was so pleased to get through that,” Norrie said in his on-court interview. “Jaume put the ball in so many awkward parts of the court. I battled as hard as I could; I wasn’t playing my best and I managed to lock it in in the fourth and keep the momentum in the fifth.”

Norrie hit 46 winners to 42 unforced errors and outpointed Munar 140-124. He converted nine of 15 break points. Munar countered with 42 winners but hit 38 unforced errors. He broke Norrie five times in 13 tries.

“That match was exactly what I needed,” Norrie added. “I got a lot of rhythm out there.

“I think I was a little bit fortunate to win that first set – he was the better player. He was too good in the second and this third and I was getting a little bit frustrated.

“He was lobbing me and drop-shooting and passing me. It was really tough. But I managed to turn it around and I was really pleased with my level at the end. I’m just really pleased to get through.”

Norrie’s next opponent will be Steve Johnson of the United States. The 93rd-ranked American eliminated 135th-ranked British wild card Ryan Peniston, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

At about the same time that Norrie was wrapping up his victory on No. 1 Court, Garcia, a former World No. 4, took out Raducanu in just 85 minutes by slugging 25 winners to only 12 for Raducanu. She also won 71 percent of her first-serve points and converted 15 of 18 points at the net and outpointed her British opponent 65-50. The victory advanced Garcia to the third round at the All England Club for the third time.

“It’s always a pleasure to be playing on the big courts of the Slams, and the one of Wimbledon is very special,” Garcia said in her on-court interview. The Frenchwoman gained a bit of revenge after losing to Raducanu at Indian Wells earlier in the season.

As for Raducanu, she took her defeat in stride and maintained a positive demeanor in her post-match press conference. “Obviously, it’s tough to lose any match,” she said. “I think that Caroline played a great match. She is a great player and I struggled to find a way through her today. It’s okay. Coming into this, I didn’t really have any expectations of myself and playing on Centre Court, again, was again a really positive experience for me. So, I can take it going forward.”

Next, Garcia will face No. 33 seed Zhang Shuai of China, who advanced with a 7-6 (6), 6-2 win over No. 76 Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine.

Around the All England Club

• Among the seeded men advancing to the third round: No. 5 seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, No. 10 Jannik Sinner of Italy, No. 22 Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, No. 23 Frances Tiafoe of the United States, No. 25 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, No. 30 Tommy Paul of the United States and No. 32 Oscar Otte of Germany. The upsets included: No. 15 Reilly Opelka of the United States and No. 31 Sebastian Baez of Argentina.

• Among the seeded women reaching the third round: No. 3 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, No. 5 Maria Sakkari of Greece, No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, No. 15 Angelique Kerber of Germany, the 2018 Wimbledon champion; No. 28 Alison Riske of the United States and No. 33 Zhang Shuai of China. Seeds reaching the second round: No. 6 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic and No. 8 Jessica Pegula of the United States. The upsets included: No. 9 Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, the 2017 Wimbledon champion; No. 26 Sorana Cirstea of Romania and No. 29 Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine.

• Confirmed for the mixed doubles draw with a wild card are the formidable pair of Great Britain’s Jamie Murray and Venus Williams of the United States.

Also, Coco Gauff will team with Jack Sock to form a most interesting all-American pair.

Wednesday’s Wimbledon results

Thursday’s Wimbledon order of play

By the numbers

• Five of the ATP Tour’s Top 20 players are missing from this year’s Wimbledon due to bans, injuries or illness: No. 1 Daniil Medvedev of Russia (Russian ban), No. 2 Alexander Zverev of Germany (injury), No. 8 Andrey Rublev of Russia (Russian ban), No. 11 Matteo Berrettini of Italy (COVID-19 illness), No. 17 Marin Cilic of Croatia (COVID-19 illness).

Additionally, three others have already been upset in the first two rounds of the tournament: No. 6 Casper Ruud of Norway, No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada and No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.

• The United States began with 34 singles players, most since 1998. Thirteen men advanced to the second round, most since 1995. However, only eight women made it to Round Two, fewest since 2015.

“Quotable …”

“My favorite player is Rafa [Nadal]. So, of course, I’m trying to watch every match. Also, here two days ago, I think I watched his practice. So, yes, it’s just nice to watch him play.”

Jule Niemeier of Germany, during her post-match interview after upsetting No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit for her first Top-10 victory.

“When I came here, I have so many great memories, of course winning here in 2018, that was one of my biggest goals and dreams that I achieved.

“Coming back here, it’s really a magic place for me. Seeing the familiar faces and having a great time on and off court it’s really great.”

Angelique Kerber, 34, 2018 Wimbledon champion and sixth oldest player in this year’s women’s draw.