Humbert, Sonego Earn Maiden Montpellier Wins
Seventh seed Sonego edges Gaston in three
The sixth seed, who lost in the first round at this event in 2019 and 2020, recovered from 2-5 down in the second set to advance in 78 minutes. Humbert struck 18 aces and dropped just six points behind his first serve (42/48) to improve to 2-2 in 2021. Since competing at last year's edition of the ATP 250, Humbert has doubled his ATP Tour trophy collection (2) and risen to a career-high No. 30 in the FedEx ATP Rankings (November 2020).
Humbert is aiming to become the fifth Frenchman to claim the Montpellier title since the tournament made its ATP Tour debut in 2010. Eight of the previous 10 editions of the singles event have been won by French players.
Humbert is chasing his third ATP Tour title on hard courts in 13 months. Last year, the Frenchman claimed his first two tour-level trophies in Auckland and Antwerp. The 22-year-old will face Dutch qualifier Tallon Griekspoor or American Marcos Giron in his next match.
The Italian was making his debut in Montpellier, playing in his first match since his Australian Open second-round epic against an inspired Feliciano Lopez. Sonego narrowly lost out to the 39-year-old after taking a two-set lead in Melbourne, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
Sonego once again jumped out to a big lead on Monday, cruising through the opening set and taking an early break to go ahead 2-0 in the second set. He had points to extend his lead but wild card Gaston, No. 162 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, was determined to rally back.
Gaston sent them into a tie-break with an emphatic break to love, and saved match point with a powerful unreturned serve at 6/5 on his way to grabbing the second set. But this time Sonego stayed calm, and was back in control of the match in the final tilt. He opened up a double-break lead and served out his spot in the second round after two hours and 20 minutes.
“He has an incredible talent,” Sonego said after the match. “He was a wild card, and he played unbelievable with his backhand and drop shot. It’s not easy to play a wild card at home, so I’m really happy. It was a really tough match after [having] one match point in the second set.”