Auckland (AFP) - It was the "tournament of revenge" for rising star Ugo Humbert who won his maiden ATP title beating Benoit Paire in a three-set thriller at the Auckland Classic on Saturday.
In the all-French showdown, the unseeded Humbert held his nerve in the deciding tie-break of his first ATP final to beat the fifth seed 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 7-6 (7/5).
The 30-year-old Paire, number 24 in the world, was no stranger to playing a decider, having been stretched to three sets in his four previous matches in the tournament.
The 21-year-old Humbert, who a year ago was ranked outside the top 100, started the tournament at number 57 and the title should advance him well inside the top 50.
He only played three sets in the first round against Casper Ruud and won his next three matches in straight sets including wins over second-seed Denis Shapovalov and fourth-seed John Isner.
"I really, really wanted to win it today and I did," said an elated Humbert.
"It was the tournament of revenge," he added having previously lost to four of the five players he beat in Auckland.
"It was a great improvement for me, I couldn't have dreamed of a better beginning of this year."
In the first set of the final, Humbert broke Paire's opening serve, the first of four breaks in the set, and was on the verge of wrapping up the set at 6-5 with three break points only for Paire to fight his way out of trouble and force the tie-break.
Humbert then quickly reasserted his dominance and comfortably took the tie-break 7/2.
The tide turned in the second set for Paire who broke Humbert on a double fault at 2-1 and maintained the advantage for force the third set winner-takes-all.
In their one previous meeting, Paire had rallied from a set down to beat Humbert in three sets at Winston-Salem last year.
But, in a tense final set Humbert was not to be denied a second time.
He broke early, only for Paire to break back at 3-5, and both players then held serve through to 6-6 when Humbert edged a head with a point off Paire's first serve in the tie-break and the match ended on a wide backhand from the elder Frenchman.