2016 champion and former-world #3 Stan Wawrinka has endured a difficult season after twice undergoing knee surgery last year. But he has found some form at last and a good run at the US Open looks achievable for the Swiss. But standing between him and the third round is the in-form young Frenchman Ugo Humbert, who has played some excellent tennis over the past few weeks. Will he be able to derail Wawrinka or will the three-time Major champion have too much?
Humbert played his first Tour-level match in the first-round of this year’s US Open so it is perhaps unsurprising that he and Wawrinka have never met before. Equally unsurprising is the gulf in experience between them. Humbert’s career-record at Tour-level is 1-0. Wawrinka’s is 477-275. Humbert has never won a title and has earned less than $100,000 in prize money. Wawrinka has won 16 titles and earned over $31 million in prize money.
Path to the second round
At Wimbledon, Wawrinka received the tough-first round draw of Grigor Dimitrov, last year the champion in Cincinnati and at the ATP Finals. He beat him in four. At the US Open, he received the same draw and again overcame the Bulgarian. A loose game late in the first set proved costly for Dimitrov and he was swept away in the second. In the third, he had his chances, at one point serving for it, but did not take them. Wawrinka took his and deservedly advanced a 6-3 6-2 7-5 winner.
Humbert arrived in New York off the back of three-straight Challenger finals, winning the third in Segovia, Spain. He then entered the qualifying, dispatching Peda Krstin of Serbia in three, and Brandon Nakashima and Marc Polmans in straight sets to reach the US Open proper. There he faced Collin Altamirano, also a qualifier, and it proved to be a comfortable match for Humbert, who won through 6-3 7-6 6-3.
How do they match up?
Central to Wawrinka’s considerable success throughout his career has been his devastating power. It receives its most potent expression in the form of his mighty single-handed backhand. Whilst it lacks the glowing grace of the Federer backhand, it is a hammer of a shot and his biggest weapon. But his serve and forehand must be guarded against as well. He served well against Dimitrov in the first round as he struck 6 aces and saved all but one of the break points he faced.
Humbert’s best shot is his serve and he used it to good effect against Altamirano, striking nine aces and winning 78% of the points behind his first serve. But there was room for improvement nonetheless and to stand a chance against Wawrinka he will need to make those improvements. He landed just 59% of his first serves and hit seven double faults. As he is unlikely to have much success against Wawrinka off the ground, he will need to better his serving numbers.
Humbert has done superbly well to reach his first Grand Slam main draw and even better to win a match. Indeed, his run, both in New York and over the past few weeks, suggests that he has a bright future in the game. But he is badly short of experience at the top level and has never faced a player even close to Wawrinka’s calibre. Unfortunately for Humbert, it is likely to be a rude introduction. Expect a straight sets Wawrinka win.