ATP Marseille: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Ugo Humbert lead youngsters charge


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ATP Marseille: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Ugo Humbert lead youngsters charge

After a terrible loss to Damir Dzumhur in Rotterdam, the top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas is through to his second semi-final of the season following a 6-4, 6-3 win over a lucky loser Sergiy Stakhovsky in 68 minutes. The Australian Open semi-finalist dropped 12 points in ten service games, keeping everything under control behind the initial shot and never facing a break point, mounting the pressure on Stakhovsky who couldn't deal with it.

The Ukrainian had to play against six break points and he managed to fend off four of those, suffering one break in each set to send Stefanos into the last four. It was a great start for both players for both players, finding the rhythm in service games and keeping returners away from the opportunities until game ten when Tsitsipas converted the second set point with a backhand crosscourt winner for a 6-4 after 33 minutes.

Carried by this momentum, the Greek stored another break in the bank at 1-0 in the second set and that was all he needed to bring the encounter home with a forehand winner in game nine, staying on the course for the second ATP title.

The struggling Belgian David Goffin lost the previous three matches before Marseille but he has found an excellent form in France, beating a former champion Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 28 minutes for the first semi-final since Cincinnati last year.

This was their fifth match and the third victory for the Belgian who delivered good numbers behind the initial shot, dropping 14 points in nine service games and never facing a break point. Simon was far from that pace, giving away almost half of the points in his games and getting broken three times from ten chances he offered to David.

The Frenchman had to play against three break points already in the first game of the match, which is never a good sign, saving those before Goffin found the way to break him in the fifth game with a forced error. David grabbed another break in game seven with a forehand winner, closing the set with a volley winner a few minutes later for a 6-2.

Gilles stayed in touch in set number two after fending off two break points, reaching 4-4 before playing a loose service game that sent David in front and allowed him to wrap up the win with an ace in game ten and advance into the last four.

The 31-year-old Mikhail Kukushkin will achieve a career-high ranking on Monday after a commanding 6-4, 6-1 victory over Andrey Rublev in 65 minutes for the first semi-final since Vienna last year. Serving at 75%, Mikhail won ten out of 14 points behind the second serve, losing serve once and hoping for chances on the return that would give him the edge on the court.

They certainly came after just 54% of the first serve that Andrey landed in, facing seven break points and suffering four breaks to propel Kukushkin into the semis. Mikhail delivered the first break in the fourth game when Rublev failed to control a deep return, losing the advantage while serving for the opener at 5-3.

Andrey drew nothing from this, though, losing serve at love in the tenth game to hand the opener to his rival, once again unable to endure backhand exchanges. The more experienced player raced into a 5-0 lead in set number two, forcing an error from Rublev with a great forehand in game two and once again at 3-0 with a backhand return winner that stayed out of the Russian's reach.

Kukushkin needed four match points in game seven to secure the victory and remain on the title course. The 20-year-old Ugo Humbert needed a wild card to enter the main draw and he used it with both hands, toppling a qualifier Matthias Bachinger 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and 19 minutes for the fourth ATP win of the season.

A left-handed Frenchman did just about everything right on the court for his first ATP semi-final, dropping just nine points on serve and creating 11 break chances, converting three for a one-sided win and to join his coeval Tsitsipas in the last four.

Ugo was in the zone right from the opening point, finding a perfect balance between dangerous serves and taming the groundstrokes from the baseline, experiencing no troubles on serve and waiting for a chance on the return patiently.

Eventually, it developed in game eight when Matthias hit a double fault to gift the service games to the youngster who placed three winners in the following game for a 6-3. The German had to give the serve away at the beginning of the second set as well, wasting four more opportunities in the next two return games but staying firmly ahead with rock-solid serving, crossing the finish line with another break in game nine after a smash winner to move two wins away from the maiden ATP title.