In A Week of Metz Homecoming, Humbert Reaches His First ATP Final Since 2021

Ugo Humbert (photo: Moselle Open)

METZ/WASHINGTON, November 10, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

It’s been a dream week at the Moselle Open in Metz, France for Frenchman Ugo Humbert and Alexander Shevchenko of Russia — each for different reasons, which will be explained.

On Saturday, Humbert and Shevchenko will meet in the singles final of the ATP Tour 250-series indoor hard-court event at Les Arenes de Metz, in a city located in France’s northeastern Grand Est region, along the Moselle and Seille rivers.

First, it’s been a homecoming week for the 25-year-old World No. 23 Humbert, a native of Metz, who has never advanced this far in his hometown tournament. The crowds have been in his favor and he’s rewarded them with steady, solid tennis all week. In Friday’s semifinal round, Humbert emphatically defeated 147th-ranked Italian wild card Fabio Fognini, 6-0, 6-2, in 67 minutes. He hit eight aces, won 79 percent of his total service points and faced no break points on his serve. Humbert succeeded on his second match point to reach his fourth tour-level final and first since Halle in 2021.

Humbert will be going after his fourth tour-level crown to go along with previous title triumphs in Auckland and Antwerp in 2020 and Halle in 2021. If Humbert is successful in winning the Metz title against Shevchenko on Saturday afternoon, he would reach the Top 20 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time and become the first Frenchman since Gaël Monfils in August 2022 to achieve that plateau.

“I played a really solid game [against Fabio]; it was a great win,” Humbert said in his on-court interview. “I am focused in my goal [of winning the tournament and finishing in the Top 20]. I would like to finish the year strong here at home. It’s a great feeling to be here [in Metz] and in my first final of the year.”

Meanwhile, Shevchenko, just 22, reached a big milestone in his young career by advancing to his first ATP Tour final. The young Russian beat 344th-ranked French wild card and sentimental favorite Pierre-Hugues Herbert, 6-4, 6-4, in an hour and 17 minutes Friday afternoon to continue his coming-of-age dream week in Metz. A day after knocking No. 3 seed Karen Khachanov out of contention in the quarterfinals with a straight-set victory, he backed it up by playing dominating tennis against Herbert. By reaching the title match, Shevchenko has become the youngest Metz finalist since Lucas Pouille at age 22 in 2016. He has dropped only one set in the tournament this week.

“It means the world to me,” Shevchenko said in his post-match remarks after Herbert wished him well during their post-match handshake at the net. “I have dreamed of this moment since I was a little kid. Going to sleep I thought maybe I could play in an ATP final and I did it. I will always remember this moment and it is something special.”

Shevchenko struck eight aces and broke Herbert’s serve three times. He outpointed his opponent 67-54 to move up in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings from 63 to 58.

“It’s been my dream since I was about 9 or 10 years old to play in an ATP final,” he said. “I’m really happy now.”

Around the Moselle Open

Three of the top four seeded teams remained alive in the doubles semifinals on Friday, which bookended the singles semifinals on the Center Court of Les Arenes de Metz.

First, top seeds Hugo Nys of Monaco and Jan Zielinski of Poland faced No. 4 seeds Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul, both of France, and won 7-6 (6), 6-2, 10-2, to move into Saturday’s final.

In the second semifinal,  No. 2 seeds Harri Heliovaara of Finland and Andreas Mies of Germany took on German pair Constantin Frantzen and Hendrik Jebens, who pulled off the upset with a 7-6 (3), 6-7 (7), 10-5 victory.

Friday’s Moselle Open results

Saturday’s Moselle Open order of play

By the numbers

Pierre-Hugues Herbert was aiming to reach his fifth ATP Tour singles final (he’s 0-4 in singles finals lifetime) and his first since 2021 at Marseille. Ranked 344th, he’s the lowest-ranked semifinalist in Moselle Open tournament history and would have become the lowest-ranked ATP Tour finalist since No. 455 Carl-Uwe Steeb in 2019 at Gstaad had he defeated Alexander Shevchenko.

“Quotable …”

“The feeling is special because I think I played a great match with Luca. [It was] a battle of two games that are really different, and I’m happy I came through and managed to win. It’s a special week. … Three good matches, I managed to win all three, and now I’m in the semifinals.”

Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France, during his post-match interview Thursday following his quarterfinal victory over fellow Frenchman Luca Van Assche.