Hurbert Hurkacz had a meteoric run in 2021. We look back on the Pole’s stellar 2021 season and his rise to ATP No.9 in singles ranking.
Hubert Hurkacz: Early Career
“The [sporting] genes, the motivation in the family, the love for the sport, I think they have helped me a lot,” said Hubert Hurkacz when he sat down with Last Word on Tennis for an interview in early 2020. Born on 11 February 1997 in Wroclaw, Poland, Hurkacz comes from a family of sporting heritage. He was introduced to tennis by his mother, who was a junior tennis champion in Poland. Hurkacz also has uncles who were tennis players and a grandfather who represented Poland at the international level in volleyball.
Hurkacz turned professional at age 18. He spent his 2016 and 2017 seasons fulfilling national Davis Cup duties and playing primarily on the Challenger circuit. His first significant outing came in 2018 with his first-ever Grand Slam match win at Roland Garros. He then qualified for the Next Gen finals the same year and was nominated for the ATP Newcomer Award. Hurkacz finished the year ranked 86 in the world, breaking into the top 100 for the first time.
Hurkacz won his maiden ATP singles title at Winston-Salem in 2019. He wrapped up a successful season ranked 37 in the world, breaking into the top 40. With a pandemic ridden 2020, he won his first Masters doubles title at the Paris Masters with Auger-Aliassime beating the reigning US Open Champions Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares in the finals and finished the year ranked No.34 in the world.
Miami Masters Run
He began his breakthrough 2021 campaign by winning the title at Delray Beach, beating another youngster, Sebastian Korda. However, he followed this with a disappointing loss to Mikael Ymer at the first round of the Australian Open. His best result in a tennis tournament came in March 2021 at the Miami Masters, where he was crowned champion, beating Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, and Jannik Sinner en route to the title.
Hurkacz suffered a strain of early losses following his success in Miami through the clay-court season and the beginning of the grass-court seasons at Halle and Eastbourne. Then began his famous Wimbledon campaign. He easily sailed through the early rounds before facing the No.2 seed Danil Medvedev in the 4th round. Hurkacz had a terrific hard-fought victory, stunning Medvedev over five sets with a 2-6, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 scoreline. He was now into his first Grand Slam Quarterfinals to face Roger Federer.
Hurkacz started that match confidently despite the gravity of having to play Federer on Center Court, Wimbledon. He closed out the first set 6-3. Then, with a close encounter of 7-6 in the second set, Hurkacz wrapped up the match emphatically with a 6-0 victory against one of the games’ most outstanding players earning him an entry into his first Grand Slam semifinals. He spoke of basking in the opportunity of playing his best match in front of the Center Court crowd as “It’s super special for me, playing on this special court against Roger. I’m super proud and super happy to be here. I can’t wait for the next one.”
Post Slam Season
Hurkacz failed to replicate his quarterfinals performance, falling to the eventual finalist Matteo Berrettini in 4 sets in the semis. However, although he had a lackluster US hard court swing, Hurkacz rediscovered form and went on to win his second title of the season in Metz, beating Pablo Carreno Busta in the finals and beating Andy Murray along the way. He also had a good run into the quarterfinals of Indian Wells, where he lost to an inspired Grigor Dimitrov.
With his victory over James Duckworth at the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters, he had earned a spot at the ATP World Tour Finals in Turin in the elite 8 Men field. As a result, he was now up against the No.1 seed Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. Hurkacz had never beaten Djokovic and started the match in the best style, winning the first set 6-3. He failed to keep up the momentum, and with his banner 2021 season, Djokovic eventually won the match in a thrilling third set tiebreak victory of 3-6, 6-0, 7-6(5). Hurkacz debuted at the ATP World Tour Final in Turin and finished his 2021 season with three round-robin losses.
Hubert Hurkacz in 2022
2021 has been a season to remember for Hubert Hurkacz, with the first of many highs. He won his first-ever ATP Masters 1000 title at Miami, made his maiden Grand Slam semifinals at Wimbledon with victory over Federer in the quarters, qualified for the ATP World Tour Final, and finished the year inside the Top 10 with an ATP Singles Ranking of No.9 in the world along with being the highest-ranked Polish male player in history.
He rightly summarized his 2021 run as “I think it was a great season. I learned a lot, which was very big for me. The improvements I have made [gave me] the opportunity to be here and compete here. I am learning about what to work on. It is nice to have a lot of things to improve in my game. My return and my forehand are things I want to work on.”
Though well-known for his polite demeanor on and off the courts, which has earned him the title of being the “nicest guy on tour,” Hurkacz’s all-court game, a great serve, exceptional agility for a guy of 6’5, and his desire to succeed make him a formidable opponent on any surface. With a punctuating season in 2021 exceeding many expectations, 2022 promises to come with a lot more triumphs in Hurkacz’s young career.
Main Photo from Getty.