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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, June 20, 2021

Ugo Humbert

Ugo Humbert fought off fourth-seeded Andrey Rublev 6-3, 7-6(4) in today's Halle final to win his first career grass-court championship.

Photo credit: Noventi Open Facebook

Finals Sunday is independence day for Ugo Humbert.

The 22-year-old Frenchman frees himself from stress and lets his most dynamic tennis flow. Humbert continued to tune into the final muse fending off fourth-seeded Andrey Rublev 6-3, 7-6(4) in today's Halle final to win his first career grass-court championship.

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Firing one final forehand winner to seal the championship, Humbert dropped to his knees then fell forward as if embracing the lawn after a long road trip.

The title rise caps a week of work that saw Humbert win four straight three-setters—including a 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 win over Sam Querrey in his opener, a 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 win over third-seeded Alexander Zverev and a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 semifinal win over Felix Auger-Aliassime yesterday—and win five of the six tie breakers he played.

Humbert improved to 3-0 in ATP finals, capturing his third career title to become the first man to win his Halle debut since Lleyton Hewitt defeated Roger Federer in the 2010 final. Humbert solidified his status as a grass-court threat backing up his run to the 2019 Wimbledon fourth round.

The 500-level title is the biggest championship of Humbert's career and he won it asserting his lefty serve and slashing winners off both wings. Humbert served 73 percent, pumped nine aces and saved both break points he faced raising his 2021 record to 14-13.

Playing with clarity and control against one of the sport's hardest hitters, Humbert mixed angles with bold down the line drives to become the second Frenchman and second left-hander to raise the Halle title in its 28-year history joining compatriot Henri Leconte, who topped top-seeded Andrei Medvedev in the inaugural 1993 final.

Tennis Express

Meanwhile, Rublev was denied his shot to join Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Dmitry Tursunov as the third Russian man in the Open Era to win a grass-court title. Contesting his third final of the year on a third different surface, Rotterdam champion Rublev dropped to 8-4 in career ATP finals.

The opening set stayed on serve until the eighth game when Humbert broke at 15 then served out the set.

In the second set, both men were playing stretches of first-strike tennis with the server setting the tone. Humbert stamped three love holds in six service games in the set. Humbert aced his way into the tie breaker.

Deadlocked at 4-4 in the breaker, Rublev blinked netting a forehand down the line and erupting in a primal scream of angst as Humbert snatched the mini break.

Whipping the wide serve, Humbert spun a forehand winner down the line for championship points. On the ninth shot of the ensuing rally, Humbert slashed a final forehand winner then dropped to his knees.

The lanky Frenchman will wake up tomorrow ranked a career-high No 25 and arrive at SW19 as a dangerous threat for a second-week run.


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