Humbert Dethrones Defending Marseille Champ Hurkacz

Ugo Humbert (photo: Open 13 Provence)

MARSEILLE/WASHINGTON, February 10, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Ugo Humbert, twice a Marseille semifinalist, has finally made it to the Open 13 Provence final in his third try. On Saturday afternoon, the No. 4 seed from France played aggressively throughout his one-hour, 22-minute semifinal and defeated defending Marseille champion and this year’s top seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, 6-4, 6-4, to advance to Sunday’s final in the Bouches du Rhône.

Humbert will face No. 2 seed Grigor Dimitrov in the title match. The World No. 13 from Bulgaria went the distance to beat No. 3 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (5), in two hours and 57 minutes.

The 21st-ranked Humbert reached his fifth ATP Tour final (where he’s undefeated) and extended his seven-match indoor winning streak (which includes an indoor title at Metz last November) to make the Marseille final for the first time. He parlayed a service break in each set and overcame nine service aces by the World No. 8 Hurkacz.

Humbert, who improved to 6-1 this season, finished with six aces, won 80 percent of his first-serve points, saved all three of the break points he faced from Hurkacz and broke him twice in two tries. He outpointed his opponent 60-50.

“My beginning was really strong, I got the break early, and I played an amazing match,” Humbert said in his on-court interview. “I’m really happy to be in the final.”

Serving for the match, ahead 5-4, Humbert held it all together. He capped a five-shot rally with a forehand winner. It marked the first time the Frenchman had defeated the Polish No. 1 in four tries and avenged a recent four-set, fourth-round loss at last month’s Australian Open.

The 25-year-old Humbert improved to 10-12 against Top-10 foes and stopped a three-match losing streak against them. Currently ranked No. 19 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, Humbert could climb to No.18 with a title victory. His previous career high of No. 20 came last November after winning Metz.

Meanwhile, Hurkacz, who turns 27 on Sunday and was chasing after his eighth career title, was stymied in his quest to be the seventh player to reach back-to-back Marseille finals.

Dimitrov rallies to reach second 2024 final

The second-seeded Dimitrov (10-1) rallied from a set down to reach his 19th career ATP Tour final and he maintained his unbeaten streak against the 18th-ranked Khachanov (4-0). Thanks to his 19-ace performance, he’s through to his second Tour final of the 2024 season following his title win at Brisbane last month.

Dimitrov is 2-0 lifetime against Humbert.

“Every tournament I play I want to go to the end [and win],” Dimitrov said earlier this week during one of his Marseille news conferences. “I’ve worked on a lot of things in my game over the course of the past seven or eight months. There are some things I can do better, but I also see some positive things of the work that I have put in. It makes you want to be more hungry, also more excited and more engaged to try to learn more from yourself. Are you going to win every match, every tournament? I don’t know. I’m don’t think so, but you can always give yourself your best chance. Right now, it’s about giving myself the best chance.”

Around the Palais de Sports

Unseeded Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic and Zhang Zhizhen of China advanced to the doubles final after defeating unseeded Americans Sebastian Korda and Vasil Kirkov, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 10-7, in one hour and 24 minutes. Machac and Zhang, who both were quarterfinalists in the singles draw, saved six of seven break points and outpointed Korda and Kirkov 72-67.

Machac and Zhang (7-1 as a team this season, including a semifinal run at the Australian Open) will face unseeded Patrik Niklas-Salminen and Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland (5-3 together lifetime) in Sunday’s title match.

Saturday’s Open 13 Provence results

Sunday’s Open 13 Provence order of play

By the numbers

The Marseille semifinal lineup contained all of the Top Four seeds for the first time in tournament history. It is the second ATP Tour semifinal this season with all of the Top Four seeds after Montpellier last week (No. 1 Rune, No. 2 Bublik, No. 3 Auger-Aliassime, No. 4 Coric).

“Quotable …”

“It’s good for me to play this match. I’m feeling well, I’ve played a couple of good matches, strong overall. So, I hope I can play the same way [against Khachanov]. I’m here to perform. The top four are left in the tournament. The matches won’t get any easier. I just need to be ready. My body feels well. It’s been a great week so far.”

–No. 2 seed Grigor Dimitrov, during his Friday post-match news conference, following his quarterfinal victory against Arthur Rinderknech.