Humbert Saves 3 M.P. In Montpellier Thriller

In his first tournament since he failed to convert two match points against Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open, Ugo Humbert held his nerve and saved three match points to beat Tallon Griekspoor 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 7-6(5) at the Open Sud de France on Wednesday.

“I thought about the match with Kyrgios [where I had] two match points,” said Humbert, in an on-court interview. “I told myself, ‘You can do it.’ I am super happy for that.”

The sixth seed came from 7-6(4), 5-2 down and escaped three match points at 3-5 in the second set to reach his first quarter-final of 2021 after two hours and 50 minutes. Humbert defended well and benefitted from errors to save the three match points he faced and he served with confidence throughout the decider to earn his place in the last eight.

“It was tough today. [Griekspoor] played at a great level,” said Humbert. “I tried to stay combative. It was tough. [We played] three tie-breaks and I am super happy to win this match.”

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Humbert is bidding to capture his third ATP Tour title this week. Interestingly, the Frenchman saved four match points en route to his most recent title at the 2020 European Open in Antwerp.

Humbert is also aiming to continue the tradition of French champions in Montpellier. Eight of the past 10 singles editions of the ATP 250 event have been won by French players.

The 22-year-old will meet top seed Roberto Bautista Agut or French qualifier Gregoire Barrere for a place in the semi-finals. Barrere won 65 per cent of his second-serve return points (20/31) to defeat Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-4.

Aljaz Bedene also needed a final-set tie-break on Wednesday, as he overcame fifth seed Jannik Sinner 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(3). The 31-year-old was overpowered in the early stages of the match, but he moved up the court and took the initiative in baseline rallies to turn the match in his favour. Bedene landed 14 aces throughout the match and closed the net well in the final-set tie-break to advance in two hours and 39 minutes.

“In the first set, [Sinner] was the better player… Afterwards, I became more aggressive and was making less mistakes. I think that decided it,” said Bedene, in an on-court interview. “On the important points, I was there. I didn’t lose my focus.”

Bedene is the first player outside the Top 10 to defeat Sinner indoors in a year. Sinner entered the encounter on a 10-match indoor winning streak against players outside the Top 10, which dated back to his quarter-final loss to Pablo Carreno Busta at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in February 2020.

Bedene gains revenge for his third-round loss to Sinner at the Great Ocean Road Open earlier this month. The World No. 60, who owns a 2-1 ATP Head2Head record against Sinner, will face Egor Gerasimov in the second round. Gerasimov booked his spot in the second round with a 7-6(8), 6-1 victory against Andy Murray on Tuesday.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina outlasted fellow Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-2 to set up a second-round clash with fourth seed Hubert Hurkacz. The 21-year-old created 15 break points and took six of his opportunities to claim victory in two hours and 31 minutes.

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