Tata Open Maharashtra: Herbert and his ‘singles’ vision

US Open and Wimbledon doubles champion Pierre-Hugues Herbert is aware of his flaws when it comes to singles, but the transition seems smooth.

Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France defeated Yuki Bhambri in the second round of men's singlesat the Tata Open Maharashtra tennis tournament at Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Pune on Wednesday.   -  R. Ragu

He is a Grand Slam champion in doubles, but he prefers to call himself a singles player who also plays doubles.

Pierre-Hugues Herbert — the France international who won the US Open men’s doubles title (2015) and the Wimbledon Gentleman’s Doubles with Nicolas Mahut (2016) — is gently trying to rally into the singles arena. 

The 26-year-old advanced to the quarterfinals of the ATP 250 event beating Yuki Bhambri (India) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a hard fought battle. He is likely to face either Ramkumar Ramanathan or World No 6 Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals. 

Match report

Serve, the weapon

However, the focal point of his game is his serve, which he picked up from legends. “When you have a big serve, you can count on it. It helps a lot in gaining points. I could use that today. My dad was a huge fan of Sampras sir (Pete) and John McEnroe. Maybe, he put a bit of both in me,” he said.

The serve helped him save six break points in the third set, when Yuki had switched on his demon mode. “Yuki was levelling his game in the beginning of the third set. I had to do something to save some points. I am happy with the win as it wasn’t an easy one,” he added.

Doubles to singles

The transition from doubles to singles wasn’t rosy, but he clearly made a bouquet out of it. “I could pick the most important volleys. It was hard as Yuki has a good return. In doubles, it is useful to have someone at the net and be able to pass. When I hit the backhand crosscourt on the last break point he had, I felt that was an important shot. First, I am a singles player,” he reasoned, confessing that rallies aren’t easy for a doubles player.

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“I am practising it. The doubles tendency that I have can be negative, because when you play too much doubles, you don't hit too many ground strokes. The rallies are tough to play then.”

Despite the win, Herbert is going to be up on his toes to watch Cilic take on Ramanathan.

“I am going to watch it tonight. It is going to be a hard match anyway. Ramkumar is playing at home, so it is not going to be easy.”

Earlier, Yuki put up a brave fight but he couldn’t capitalise on his advantages. His second serve lacked steam and Herbert proved to be a champion under pressure. The returns were too hot to handle.