After winning his first Masters 1000 title in Miami this year, Hubert Hurkacz has had a fascinating season. Heading into this year’s Wimbledon Championships, Hurkacz was on a six match losing streak. No one was discussing him as a potential dark horse or as someone who could go deep this year. Seemingly out of nowhere, he now finds himself in his first Grand Slam semifinal. So, how did he become just the second Polish man to reach a Wimbledon semifinal?
The Rise of Hubert Hurkacz
It’s not unknown to many tennis fans that Hurkacz is a serious talent. He’s been causing the top players plenty of trouble in recent years, boasting a 2-0 lead over current US Open champion Dominic Thiem and pushing Novak Djokovic hard at Wimbledon in 2019. However, this year in particular is he’s really stepped up his game. While he’s now in the top 20, he’s playing like a top 10 player.
At the ATP Miami Open this year, Hurkacz turned into a giant killer. Beating high quality players such as Denis Shapovalov, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Milos Raonic, Andrey Rublev, and Jannik Sinner all in the space of a week. To beat just one of these players takes a lot, but all of them in one tournament? Remarkable.
After this stunning run to the title, the World #18 found himself unable to keep up this level through the clay season. Winning just one match at the Monte Carlo Masters, he went on to lose his next six encounters. Hurkacz has never particularly stood out on clay, but it was surprising to see such a decline after securing a Masters 1000. Even when the clay season ended and he played two grass court tournaments, he was unable to get a win.
A Sensational Wimbledon Run
Heading into Wimbledon, no one was even considering Hurkacz as someone who could make a good run. So, it came as quite a shock to see him absolutely blitz his way through the draw. Starting off with a tough first round against rising star Lorenzo Musetti, he dispatched the Italian fairly comfortably in straight sets. As he continued through the draw he also took down the ever dangerous Alexander Bublik in easy fashion.
Then came a result we were not expecting. World #2 Daniil Medvedev was looking in imperious form and many believed he could be the biggest challenge to Djokovic’s tournament hopes. Despite having not being broken all tournament, Hurkacz lost his serve twice in the first to the Russian and it looked as if he wasn’t going to have things his way.
However, the Pole fought back valiantly and took the second set tiebreak. Medvedev won the third set relatively easily, but the match was put on hold due to rain and some poor scheduling decisions by Wimbledon. With Hurkacz leading 4-3 in the fourth set, the match resumed the following day. Hurkacz took full advantage of this delay, coming out of the blocks fully firing. He broke quickly and took the match to a deciding set, where he completely outplayed Medvedev and completed his victory in impressive fashion.
There was no time to dwell on this fantastic victory as he was facing the eight time champion Roger Federer the following day. Hurkacz was the comfortable underdog, but it didn’t seem like it. He was almost an immovable beast on his serve, and he put constant pressure on Federer’s. Federer was certainly not playing at his best, but full credit must go to Hurkacz here. He played a fabulous match, and is more than deserving of his semifinal spot. Though it was somewhat sad to see the great champion go out in straight sets, it was a testament to Hurkacz’s level of tennis that he was able to win 6-3 7-6 6-0.
Considering Hurkacz’s style of tennis, it’s not all that surprising to see him doing so well on the grass. He has a fantastic serve and he’s excellent off the ground while being a real force up at the net. It’s clear that he has the game to beat anyone on this surface.
The Forgotten NextGen Player?
It’s easy to forget that the Pole is just 24 years of age. Many young players around his age such as Medvedev, Rublev, Zverev, and Berrettini are often described as NextGen players, whereas Hurkacz often flies under the radar. He hasn’t been as highly ranked as these players, but you’d think after winning a Masters title he’d be in the conversation by now.
Well, now that he’s reached a Wimbledon semifinal after taking down Medvedev and Federer, this will surely change. Expect to see a lot more of this talented youngster, and this will certainly not be the last time we see him at the latter stages of a Grand Slam. What makes this run even more impressive is the fact that he’s never got past the second round of a Grand Slam before this tournament.
Hurkacz will now take on big-serving title contender Matteo Berrettini for a place in the Wimbledon final. Berrettini certainly isn’t playing at his best, but he cannot stop winning matches. Both men will be competing for their first ever Grand Slam final, and it will be a highly tense encounter. With both players being so dominant on serve all tournament, this match could well go the distance.
Hubert Hurkacz will be full of confidence heading into this, knowing that he has the game to beat Berrettini. If he is to do so, he will face either Novak Djokovic or Denis Shapovalov in the final. Can he do the unthinkable and win the tournament? We’ll just have to sit back and watch what this young star can produce.
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