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Humbert and Paire set up all-French final in Auckland

Benoit Paire,ATP Cup 2020

Benoit Paire of France reacts after winning a point during his match against Kevin Anderson of South Africa at the ATP Cup tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)


AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Unseeded Ugo Humbert will play fifth-seeded Benoit Paire in an all-French final of the ASB Classic.

Humbert beat fourth seed and two-time champion John Isner 7-6 (5), 6-4 on Friday to reach his first career final.

Paire later beat sixth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4, 6-7 (0), 6-2 to reach his ninth final and his first in Auckland.

Close friends, Paire and Humbert have met only once on tour, last August, when Paire won in three sets at Winston-Salem.

“To play against Ugo in the final is something special, between French guys,” Paire said. “I know him, he’s young and he’s a very good player, next gen.”

Humbert has been the giant killer this week beating second-seeded Denis Shapavalov and 20th-ranked Isner.

Isner fought his way out of some tight spots in reaching the semifinals; his first two matches included four tiebreakers and the American faced another on Friday in the first set against Humbert.

This time, Humbert had the slight edge. Isner managed only 12 aces, well down on his average, and made 32 unforced errors to give Humbert a vital advantage.

Paire once again had a costly outburst in the second set when he conceded a point penalty for racket abuse during the tiebreaker. He quickly composed himself, gained an early break in the third set and held on to take the match.

“I’m very sorry, I broke one racket and I was very nervous,” Paire said. “It’s very hard to play against Hubert.

“I’ve only two (rackets) left so I hope I can win the final.”