If Arthur Fils wanted to make a big first impression on his home fans, the 18-year-old Frenchman certainly chose a good time to do it at the Open Sud de France – Montpellier.
Fils upset countryman and 16-time tour-level titlist Richard Gasquet 7-5, 7-5 on Monday to register his maiden ATP Tour win. Gasquet entered the clash with a 10-0 record in opening rounds at the ATP 250 event in southern France, where he is a three-time champion. But wild card Fils broke decisively in the 12th game of both sets to clinch a famous one-hour, 52-minute first-round triumph.
“[I’m] really happy, it was a tough match for me,” said Fils post-match. “He was playing good, I was playing good too, but I played really good in the end of the first set and then I was a little bit more relaxed on the court. I’m happy about this win.”
The 36-year-old Gasquet knows how it feels to make a big impact at a young age — he remains the youngest winner of an ATP Tour match after his victory as a 15-year-old against Franco Squillari at the 2002 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. Despite taking an early 4-2 lead in the first set on Monday, however, Gasquet this time found himself on the wrong end of the upset as Fils sealed the win having fended off seven of nine break points.
Fils made his ATP Tour debut at the Rolex Paris Masters in November, where he beat Fabio Fognini to qualify for the main draw before losing to the Italian, who was playing as a lucky loser, in the first round. Monday’s win continues an impressive start to 2023 for the World No. 163, who is 9-1 on the ATP Challenger Tour this season and lifted his first title at that level in Oeiras, Portugal in mid-January. His reward for taking out Gasquet is a second-round meeting with fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut.
“[The win gives me] a lot of confidence,” said Fils. “I just lost one match since the start of the year so my confidence is really up, but to be honest, beating Richard [brings] more than good confidence. It’s super confidence, and I will try to do the same things today against Roberto.”