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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday May 28, 2023

A new coach, a new attitude and a new lease on life on the terre battue.

After several years of struggles, Ugo Humbert may have finally figured out the best way to play on clay.

Tennis Express

On Sunday, Humbert won for the first time at Roland-Garros, defeating Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-3, 6-1.

“It's really special,” Humbert said. “I've been trying for four to five years, and I've never managed to actually relax on court here until I was very first on center court, on Philippe-Chatrier court. I had a wonderful time, and I'm really satisfied with my first match.”

A lot of credit has to go to Humbert, who entered today with an 0-4 record at Roland-Garros and an 8-22 record on clay over his career, for persevering. Some also has to go to his coach, former ATP World No.25 Jeremy Chardy.

Humbert says it is his coach that convinced him that he could be a better clay-court player.

“It was a mental process,” the 24-year-old former World No.25 said. “Jeremy, my coach, tried to convince me that I could win. In the previous seasons I had only had two to three wins on clay. And so he told me, ‘All right, well, trust me. You are going to try to play differently, even if you're not going to succeed at the beginning.’ That's what I did in Cagliari, it implied some questions about my game and how to adjust it to play on clay and to protect yourself on clay. It's crucial.”

Humbert made significant strides on the challenger circuit this month, winning the Cagliari challenger, where he defeated Laslo Djere in the final, and then triumphing at the Bordeaux challenger, where he defeated Stan Wawrinka, Richard Gasquet and Tomas Martin Etcheverry en route to the crown.

Humbert elaborated on what it means to “protect yourself.” He says that what is most important is learning to dial down the power and to think more tactically about within rallies.

“I can vary a little bit more, vary the height a little bit, and respect the game,” he said. “I was really tense. I was hitting the ball quite hard, so I didn't have any time to get back to my position, so that was the first thing on which I've improved. I can move better. I can slide more because it was a little bit like Bambi on ice at the beginning, but now I've improved.”

Humbert’s Parisian journey will get more difficult in the second round when he faces Lorenzo Sonego. The Italian recently took out Humbert in three sets in Monte-Carlo, saving four match points in the process.

Emboldened by his newfound clay-court prowess, Humbert hopes he can exact some revenge on home soil.

“I'm playing against him again,” he said. “That would be my revenge. That's what Jeremy told me. I'll be playing here at Roland Garros in France, and he is a great player. He has a very aggressive game.

“Last time in Monte-Carlo it was really tight. I had some match points. I couldn't convert them. I've had some opportunities, but I'm going to give my best for the next match.”