Ugo Humbert was not unworthy. Far from there. But on Friday, he finally surrendered against stronger than him in the round of 16 of the Masters 1000 in Rome. Messin, who had never reached this stage of the competition in this tournament category, made life difficult for Denis Shapovalov who knocked him down (6-7, 6-1, 6-4) after almost three hours (2h52 exactly) of an often spectacular left-handed shock. The Canadian, 14th player in the world, thus obtained his ticket for the 5th Masters 1000 quarter-final of his career, during which he will face Grigor Dimitrov who also fought to overcome Jannik Sinner earlier in the day ( 4-6, 6-4, 6-4).
He will be able to approach Roland-Garros with confidence. Ugo Humbert was the last Frenchman to compete in Italy and he fought like a lion to the end. But on the other side of the net, Denis Shapovalov confirmed that he was crossing a sacred milestone in the consistency of his performances at high level. The only US Open quarter-finalist still competing on Roman clay, the Canadian impressed with his ability to maintain physical intensity at all times in his tennis.
Denis Shapovalov in Rome in 2020
Credit: Getty Images
Humbert didn’t keep up with Shapovalov’s hellish pace
The Canadian, however, had every reason to blame it after a first set abandoned in the tie-break and more than 1h20 of fighting. Faster in legs and more aggressive, he had first come close to making a difference early on. But Humbert resisted, using his first-ball slice wonderfully to ward off danger. And little by little, this resistance evolved into regularity in the exchange which considerably embarrassed Shapovalov. So much so that before giving in to the decisive game, the 14th player in the world had already had to dismiss three set points on his service at 4-5 and 5-6 against him.
Even two years ago, Shapovalov might have dived. Not this time. The Canadian maintained pressure at all times on Humbert who, for his part, declined. The result: a one-sided second set and a final-act entry break for the Canadian. The latter was subsequently no longer worried about his commitment, but the Messin had the (great) merit of tearing himself away to hope until the end. On a wire, he dismissed all the double break points he had faced.
Although annoyed to miss so many opportunities to kill the match, Shapovalov has never deviated from his offensive line. The Canadian took the net at the first opportunity, made the “show” with among other things a winning jump backhand that he masters to perfection, and logically imposed himself. The Canadian will not have conceded the slightest break in this part, however demanding in terms of concentration. He asserts himself as one of the real outsiders of this tournament.