In Antwerp, Ugo Humbert's improvements and no-pressure approach pay off

The 22-year-old will take on Alex de Minaur in Sunday's final

by Sharada Iyer
In Antwerp, Ugo Humbert's improvements and no-pressure approach pay off

On Sunday, Ugo Humbert will play his second ATP final – and for his second ATP title – against Australia’s Alex de Minaur in Antwerp. The Frenchman, who is playing the European Open for the second consecutive year, was not only on the verge of exiting the tournament in the semi-final yet again but also against another Briton at that, against Dan Evans.

However, the 22-year-old played the match like he had played the rest all through the week – without any stress and without any care about the score. In the end, this technique had clearly worked for Humbert as he came through the three-hour-12-minute tussle after saving four match points in the second-set tiebreak, 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-4.

Ugo Humbert's semi-final survival

Interestingly, in his press conference after his quarter-final win over Lloyd Harris, Humbert was asked how he would evaluate himself in the year between his first and second semi-final in the Belgian event.

In his reply, he had said, “It is a lot of improvement, a lot of work… I think I am a different player; I am more powerful… I am feeling good here on (the) court and in my career”. While he did not delve deeply into the improvements, he has had over the course of the 12 months, Humbert’s attitude on the court against Evans was by no measure a chance occurrence.

It wasn’t the first time that the grittier side to the lanky southpaw’s game had emerged this week. Just as it was not the first time that Humbert had posted a comeback win this week in the tournament. In his second-round match against Spanish second seed Pablo Carreño Busta, too, Humbert dropped the opening set before upsetting the world no.

15, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. Wins such as these, however, only bring about much closer scrutiny of the player even as they add to the pressure. Seemingly, not for Humbert though. “No pressure,” he joked when enquired about this phenomenon greeting him in his post-match presser on Saturday.

Ugo Humbert's next words, then, settled the discussion with a finality, perhaps with an eye towards the final against de Minaur even. “Just enjoy to play tennis, (and) to be in the tournament again. I try to improve my game; it was a lot of fun today so I didn’t feel the pressure”. Photo Courtesy: European Open, Antwerp

Ugo Humbert Alex De Minaur