Mark down Ugo Humbert as a name to remember.

The young Frenchman is the men's ASB Classic champion, after a 7-6(2) 6-3 7-6(5) victory over compatriot Benoit Paire.

It was an absolute thriller, one of the best finals in recent history, and only the third since 2011 to go the distance.

It's a significant milestone for the 21-year-old Humbert, the first ATP title of his burgeoning career.


And judging on what he has shown this week, there will be plenty more, as the left-handed Humbert seems to have unlimited potential.

France has had many impressive players over the last few decades – from Yannick Noah to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – and who knows what level Humbert could reach?

Aside from his flair and shot making, Humbert has an old head on young shoulders.

Like he has been throughout the tournament, World No 57 Humbert was cool, calm and clinical.

He suffered through ebbs and flows, but found his best when it really mattered, particularly in both tiebreakers.

Paire mixed sweet and sour. He seemed to lack a bit of zip at times - perhaps due to playing in his fifth three set match of the week – and also had his now customary meltdowns, twice, over the umpire interpretation after video challenge.

But he rose to a new level in the third set, and was very close to his fourth title.

Saturday was the first time players from the same country had met in the Auckland final in more than a decade, since David Ferrer bested Tommy Robredo back in 2007.


The occasion was also representative of the strength of the sport in the Gallic nation, as it was the 14th All French final on the ATP tour since 2012.

It was a bit flat at the start, with the crowd perhaps expecting champagne tennis, but livened up from the midway point, with some enthralling tennis and remarkable drama.

Both players struggled for rhythm in a messy first set. Humbert, playing in the first final of his career, went out to a 3-0 lead, before Paire woke up. There were four breaks of serve across the set, and Paire faced down three set points serving at 5-6, one after a particularly brave second serve.

But the tiebreak was one sided.

Where Humbert was aggressive, stepping in and full of intent, Paire was strangely passive and paid the price, with Humbert wrapping up the set in 53 minutes.

In hot, sunny conditions, Paire made amends with an early break in the second, before his customary Auckland outburst midway through the second set.

With Humbert serving at 4-1, 15-0, Paire wanted to challenge a line call. But the umpire didn't allow it, saying he had not signalled his challenge quickly enough.

Paire was incandescent; "You didn't see me because you were watching the ball" but the official didn't relent.

Thankfully, the 30-year-old soon regained his composure, and the match came alive from that point.

Humbert saved two break points to stay in the fight, before Paire had a chance to seal the set serving at 5-3. But the Frenchman never does things the easy way, and lost four points in a row from 30-0 up. He defended a break point with a massive ace, then finally sealed the set with a difficult backhand pass, struck from inside the service line.

But Humbert always looked the more solid player, defying his tender years, and grabbed a vital break in the second game of the final set.

It looked like he was good enough to hold on, with Paire not helping himself with another meltdown late in the set, and he was two points from the trophy, serving at 5-3.

But Paire summoned a remarkable comeback, as he can do, capped by a stunning pass over the highest point of the net to break Humbert.

Paire then faced championship point in the next game, but refused to surrender, charging the net before smashing home a backhand volley.

However, Humber was again too good in the tiebreak. Just. He edged ahead early, then came up with a sumptuous forehand lob, with the ball well behind him to go 5-3 ahead.

Paire kept fighting, saving a match point with a ace, but Humbert was not to be denied, falling to the ground in celebration after a Paire backhand sailed wide.