Zverev overcomes heroic Humbert in pulsating encounter to knock out last home hope in Paris

Alexander Zverev edged out Ugo Humbert 6-4, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5) in front of a raucous Parisian evening crowd. He’ll face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the next round

Alexander Zverev, Paris Masters, 2023 Alexander Zverev wins epic against Ugo Humbert at 2023 Paris Masters Chryslene Caillaud / Panoramic
Rolex Paris Masters •Third round • completed
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Alexander Zverev inflicted another agonising home defeat on the Bercy crowd as he edged past Frenchman Ugo Humbert 6-4, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5) to move into the last 16 of the Paris Masters at the Accor Arena.

It was a truly pulsating encounter, one played against the backdrop of a raucous Parisian audience giving their whole-hearted and rapturous support for the last remaining French singles player at this year’s Paris Masters.

For the third time in as many days for a home player, Humbert was gut-wrenchingly close to a famous upset that would have taken the roof off Accor Arena.

But it was not to be, as Zverev showed the sheer tenacity and force of will that has helped make him one of the very best players in the world when he is on form.

Straightforward match quickly gets complicated for Zverev

For much of the evening, it looked as though it was going to be a straightforward match for the German. Zverev was in total control with a set-and-a-break lead, and found himself serving for the match at 5-4 up in the second set.

It was on that game that the entire complexion of the night changed, with Humbert breaking Zverev before forcing a tiebreak and taking it in style, all in front of an increasingly delirious French crowd.

The final set was an epic. Humbert made the first move, breaking to move 4-2 up. But another pivotal game – the eighth of the decider – went the way of the German, a he broke Humbert on his fourth opportunity to bring an end to a mammoth 16-minute game.

A deciding-set tiebreak seemed inevitable, and so it was.

Despite leading by 3-1 and 4-2, the Frenchman could not get away from Zverev, who this time ensured the tiebreak would go his way as he closed out an enthralling win by the smallest of margins, taking the third-set breaker 7-5.

“Obviously, I would have loved to finish it in two sets. But it added to the drama a little bit,” Zverev said in his post-match interview.

“I am very happy to be through. It was a fantastic battle.

“I don’t think I only beat Ugo today, I think I’ve beaten the other 15,000 people in the stadium. So, I’m very pleased with that.

“The atmosphere is always amazing in France, they’re always very loud… I love it, I enjoy the atmosphere on the court.”

Humbert can take heart from a wonderful performance

The pain of this loss will take some time to heal for Humbert, but he can take great heart from the superb exhibition of tennis that he displayed. Hitting 41 winners in total (bettering Zverev’s 35), the world No 26 made frequent forays to the net, often smothering Zverev with his quality of volley.

As a result of his excellent form of late, Humbert will move up to a career-best ranking of No 22 when the latest ranking updates are released on Monday. His season is also not quite yet over, as he has expressed his desire to play in Metz next week in what will be one final push to win a trophy this season.

Humbert’s story in Bercy, however, is over for another year. It was the world No 9’s cleaner tennis that just edged it in the end, with Zverev keeping his unforced errors to 14 fewer than his opponent’s as he allowed Humbert to keep going for shots in the hope that the inevitable errors would begin to wrack up.

While Humbert’s exit marks the end of French representation in the singles, the exodus of home players in the first two rounds of this year’s Paris Masters does not tell the story of some of the heroic performances that have come from the French contingent along the way.

Yet it is Zverev who moves through, although things do not get much simpler for him in the next round.

The German will face world No 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last 16, in what will be the 13th chapter of their rivalry.

Paris Masters, other second-round results
(Accor Arena, EUR 5.779.335, most recent results first):

  • Jannik Sinner vs. Mackenzie McDonald
  • Dominic Thiem vs. Holger Rune
  • Francisco Cerundolo beat Casper Ruud (8): 7-5, 6-4
  • Novak Djokovic (1) beat Tomas Martin Etcheverry: 6-3, 6-2
  • Alex De Minaur (13) beat Dusan Lajovic (LL): 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Felix Auger-Aliassime: 6-3, 7-6 (4)
  • Hubert Hurkacz (11) beat Roberto Bautista Agut: 6-3, 6-2
  • Grigor Dimitrov beat Daniil Medvedev (3): 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2)
  • Botic van de Zandschulp (Q) beat Tommy Paul (12): 6-4, 2-6, 6-3
  • Taylor Fritz vs. Daniel Altmaier
  • Andrey Rublev (5) beat Yoshihito Nishioka (Q): 6-4, 6-3
  • Alexander Bublik beat Nicolas Jarry: 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3)
  • Roman Safiullin (Q) beat Carlos Alcaraz (2): 6-3, 6-4
  • Karen Khachanov (16) beat Laslo Djere: 6-4, 7-5
  • Tallon Griekspoor beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina: 6-2, 6-2

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