First things first, know that this is a riskier play than most of the picks you’ll typically see in this series. At this point in both Andy Murray and Ugo Humbert’s careers, their day-to-day level varies widely. Murray’s fluctuations are usually due to the state of his metal hip—which judging by his gutsy US Open performance against Stefanos Tsitsipas—appears to be progressing well. While Humbert’s head-scratching losses typically result from a refusal to take some pace off the ball, resulting in far too many misses.

But even more importantly, Humbert does not make nearly enough second-serve returns. The Frenchman is ranked 26 in the world, but he’s 101st in the world in terms of second serve return points won. His amazing lefty serve and easy power from the baseline mask a lot of problems, but sometimes you have to just put the ball in the court—especially on the big points.

Humbert is a brilliant kid both on and off the court, and he credits his mother Anne for his genuinely kind spirit and positive attitude.

“Sometimes I’m really negative, but I try to always smile, always be happy. I think it’s my mom,” Humbert explained to Matt Fitzgerald in a Zoom conversation from Marseille.

“She’s very positive and she tried to educate me like this. It’s not very easy. You can lose every week. So, when you win a tournament, you appreciate it even more.”

Advertising

Murray won their lone singles encounter in 2019.

Murray won their lone singles encounter in 2019.

Mrs. Humbert is a phenomenal tennis parent. When she’s watching Ugo, she exhibits calm yet positive emotion, and will even applaud the adversary when her son's opponent hits a noteworthy shot. It sounds ridiculous, but betting on Humbert with his mom in the stands has been an effective strategy. She was present for his surprise run to the Paris Masters quarterfinals in 2020, as well as his title run in Halle this year.

Advertising

Since Humbert was born in this very city, it’s safe to assume his mom will be in the stands. Therefore I will be placing a small wager on his -2 game spread. This is not the world’s safest bet, but it will be fun to have some action in what could be a fascinating first-round match.

The Pick: Ugo Humbert -2 games