Humbert Upsets Felix, Sets Djokovic Showdown At Wimbledon
This week in 2018, #NextGenATP Frenchman Ugo Humbert was No. 290 in the ATP Rankings, competing at an ITF Pro Circuit event in France in which he did not face a player inside the Top 600. What a difference a year makes.
Humbert upset fellow #NextGenATP player Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and nine minutes on Friday to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon. Before arriving at The Championships for his debut, the 21-year-old had never advanced past the second round of a Grand Slam. He is the 43rd man in the Open Era to make the Round of 16 at the grass-court major on his debut.
"I'm very happy about this match. Felix is a great player and a good friend, so I was really happy to share the court with him," Humbert said. "For sure, it will be the next generation and the future."
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The World No. 66's reward in the next round is defending champion Novak Djokovic, the top seed. It will be Humbert’s first match against a Top 10 opponent. In the first round, the lefty moved to 2-0 against Top 20 opposition when Gael Monfils retired down 0-3 in the fifth set in their battle, which Monfils led two sets to none.
There was plenty of hype for a #NextGenATP star to face Djokovic in the fourth round. But many believed that player would be Auger-Aliassime, who has reached his first three ATP Tour finals this season to reach a career-high No. 21 in the ATP Rankings, also advancing to the semi-finals in Miami.
Instead, it will be Humbert, who began this fortnight with just six tour-level wins this year. The Luxembourg resident has climbed the ATP Rankings thanks in large part to his success on the ATP Challenger Tour, winning four titles on that circuit in the past 12 months, and reaching three additional finals. Humbert's best tour-level result came at the Open 13 Provence, where he advanced to the semi-finals this February.
Humbert entered this tournament in ninth place in the ATP Race To Milan. If he shocks four-time champion Djokovic, the lefty will move into one of the seven qualifying positions for the Next Gen ATP Finals.
"It's a dream. It's maybe the best match of my career, for sure," Humbert said. "I would like to enjoy this night, this victory, and I will prepare my match against Djokovic with my coach."
It appeared Auger-Aliassime was putting himself in position to make a run towards a match against Djokovic even after losing the first set, taking a 5-2 lead by showing more confidence and loosening up his shoulders. But Humbert remained level-headed throughout and never let his level dip, pressuring the 18-year-old to serve out the set.
And after Humbert broke back, he broke for the second consecutive return game when Auger-Aliassime double faulted into the net. The Frenchman then took a commanding lead by closing out the set with an inside-out forehand winner off the back foot.
Humbert was unrelenting throughout the match, serving well to keep Auger-Aliassime from gaining any rhythm, while also showcasing impressive shotmaking on No. 1 Court. He showed no nerves after earning an early break in the third set, pumping his fist towards his camp and cracking a smile after his teenage opponent sprayed a final inside-out forehand wide.
"I would like to play my game, and yes, I have the chance," Humbert said about facing Djokovic. "If not, I'm not coming on the court."