On 4th April, 2021, Polish player Hubert Hurkacz created history by becoming the first player from his country to capture an ATP 1000 Masters title when he beat next-gen star Jannik Sinner in the finals at the Miami Open. By bagging his first-ever ATP 1000 masters title, the Pole has surely given us all more reasons to look forward to men’s tennis post the Nadals, Federers, and the Djokovics.
It wasn’t an easy ride at all for Hubert (at the Miami Open), especially with the draw he had in front of him (barring his first round, all his other opponents were ranked higher than him) when the tournament began. And having come up unscathed in all his matches just goes to show he is made for the bigger occasions. Hurkacz had a dream run in Miami and we’ll relive those sensational moments, one by one.
Round 1: vs Denis Kudla
Hurkacz’s first match was against world number 123, American Denis Kudla. The first set was a neck and neck affair with both players holding their serve till 6-6. And only two break point opportunities (Kudla’s first service game) were on offer for the Pole, which he couldn’t convert. The set went into a tiebreak, with the Pole pocketing it on his third set point opportunity. Set two began with back-to-back break of serves for Hubert, who capitalized his grip on the match by racing to a 3-0 lead. Although the American did make it interesting by breaking the Pole straight away but it was too little too late as the Pole romped home and won the match 7–6(5), 6-4.
Round 2: vs Denis Shapovalov
Up next for Hurkacz was world number 12, Denis Shapovalov from Canada. While Hurkacz came into the match with a comfortable win in 2 sets, Shapovalov did not have it easy agains Ivashka and had to battle hard for 3 sets to overcome his opponent. Set one began with both players winning their opening service games till love as both looked solid. But the seventh game saw the Pole save two break points before converting his own, the following game. He saw out the first set 6-3, and was now only a set away from booking his spot in the next round. But Shapovalov wasn’t going down fighting and he kept his chances alive by holding serve. On the other hand, Hurkacz did the exact same and soon the second set went into a tiebreak. The tiebreak swung like a pendulum, but Hubert held his nerve and converted his third match point opportunity to seal the win.
Round 3: vs Milos Raonic
Hubert Hurkacz’s next opponent was against another Canadian, but this time against the more experienced Milos Raonic and current world number 19. Raonic came into the contest with routine straight sets wins over Thompson and Humbert, and looked rather menacing in the first set. It took the Canadian only the third game of the match to break Hurkacz’s serve and never looked back. He took home the first set 6-4, and put pressure on the young pole. But the Polish player wasn’t too perturbed by his opponent’s first set win. As the second set went deeper, the contest got a lot more tighter with the Pole winning a crucial break of service game in the sixth game. Raonic tried his best to fight back, but Hurkacz was the better player and won the second set. The deciding set was a closely fought affair and both players hardly gave the other an opportunity to break. Eventually, the third set went into a tiebreak and the Pole raced to a 3-0 lead, and later, found himself with 5 set points. But Raonic was not giving up that easily and saved three match points on the bounce but finally went down on the fourth match point. With that, the Polish entered the QFs at the Miami Open for the very first time in his young career.
Round 4 (Quarterfinal): vs Stefanos Tsitsipas
In the quarterfinal, Hubert Hurkacz was up against Greek sensation and world number 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas. The second seed was the favourite to win, but with Hurkacz on a roll, barely anyone ruled out an upset. The match began with Tsitsipas breaking the Pole early and consolidated from there. A few games later, the Greek broke again and the set was all but over, Eventually, Tsitsipas won the opening set 6-2 and it all seemed like the impressive run from Hurkacz was coming to a close. Set two began the same way with Stefanos breaking early, but this time the Pole made a roaring comeback and broke his opponent twice before sealing the second set on his own service game. Set three was even-Stevens until the fifth game when Hurkacz edged ahead by getting a HUGE break of serve. From there on, all Hurkacz had to do was hold service in his remaining games, which he did perfectly. He won 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and booked his spot in the semifinals.
Round 5 (Semifinal): vs Andrey Rublev
The semifinal bout between Hurkacz and Rublev was predicted to be a closely fought affair, purely because the Pole was in red hot form while the Russian was having a brilliant year himself. But all the expectations went out of the window as the Pole raced to a 5 games to 1 lead. Rublev did manage to break Hurkacz with a herculean effort in the seventh game. But it was too little too late as the set was more or less done and dusted. Set two saw the Pole consolidate his grip on the match by breaking the Russian in just the first game of the second set. Thereafter, both players kept holding their service games. The Russian was running out of time and in the ninth game of the set faced a match point, which he did manage to save. The following game, Hurkacz was serving for the set and seemed under pressure with Rublev getting a look at as many as three break point opportunities. But the Pole was calm and saved all of them. He himself got two match point opportunities; the second which he converted with glee. He outclassed Rublev in straight sets and booked his place in his maiden ATP 1000 masters final in Miami.
Round 6 (Final): vs Jannik Sinner
The Miami Open final was set. Hurkacz vs Sinner; two upcoming stars of the next gen of male players! It was predicted to be a mouth water affair with either of them having a fair chance of winning the title. And the first set commenced with Hubert taking a 2-0 lead. Sinner did manage to break back just a couple of games later to restore parity. Both players were giving very little chance for the other to get the all important second break. Soon, it was Sinner who nosed ahead with a crucial break but then returned the favour the following game to take the first set into a tiebreak. Hubert had a 100% record at tiebreaks in the tournament so far and he managed to keep it that way by conceding only 4 points en-route to capturing the opening set. The second set began in the worst possible way for Sinner as he lost back-to-back service games. And that was that! Although the Italian did manage to make a mini comeback into the match by getting one break back but it was too much too to do from there onwards. The Pole converted his Championship point and made history.
It was Hubert Hurkacz’s first-ever ATP 1000 masters title and by doing so, he made a huge jump in the ATP rankings. From 37th (before the tournament began), the Pole finished with a career-best ranking of 16th in the world. He is now surely one of the future stars in men’s tennis and we as fans can only be delighted for him. So, Hubert Hurk-has it in him to win a Grand Slam? Well, only time should tell but it sure looks bright!