Hubert Hurkacz, the most wholesome and inconspicuous elite player on the ATP, has had an unusual season. Despite his always-smiling demeanor, the current world No. 17 hasn’t lived up to his usual standards, unlike his top-10 finishes in 2021 and 2022. When you consider his top-notch serve, exceptional net game, solid movement, and good backhand, you can’t help but wonder why he doesn’t win more frequently.
This summer, Hubie showcased his incredible talent and experienced high-pressure disappointments in a couple of matches against the best players on the tour. At Wimbledon, he delivered an outstanding serving performance that left even Novak Djokovic, the best returner ever, feeling helpless: “I don’t recall being so helpless on the return games, to be honest,” Djokovic said. Despite having several tantalizing chances in the tiebreaks, Hurkacz lost to Djokovic in a 7-6(6), 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-4 battle. In Cincinnati, Hurkacz gave Carlos Alcaraz a tough time, even reaching match point, before ultimately losing 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-3. I began to wonder if his calm personality was somehow hindering his professional success. However, on Sunday, Hurkacz redeemed himself with a Shanghai Masters title, defeating Andrey Rublev 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(8) in a clash between a well-adjusted player and a tormented one.
Rublev had been on fire throughout the tournament, not dropping a single set and defeating several in-form players effortlessly. The 25-year-old has developed a straightforward, power-based style of tennis: every shot is a nail, and he’s the hammer. His baseline power becomes overwhelming on a good day. Although he hasn’t reached a major semifinal yet, he has been one of the most consistent performers on the tour in recent seasons. His biggest title to date came in April when he defeated Holger Rune in the Monte-Carlo final. Regardless of his success, Rublev’s fiery temperament remains a defining characteristic, evident once again in the final. He charged at a courtside photographer who had moved during a critical point and expressed his frustration by hitting his own leg with his racket after the match.
In terms of pure tennis, both players displayed a clean match filled with accurate serves and varied shot-making. Their contrasting styles make for an interesting matchup. Rublev aggressively demolishes every ball, while Hurkacz, counterintuitively, hits some of the slowest groundstrokes on the tour, skillfully maneuvering the ball around the court. Surprisingly agile for a tall player, standing at 6-foot-5, Hurkacz can glide around and sustain longer rallies when needed. He excels at sneaking up to the net and utilizing his excellent volleys. Thus, he combines a low-powered, finesse game with a servebot’s serve. With serving statistics like 21 aces, zero double faults, and 75 percent of first serves in play, Hurkacz will always pose a threat.
Both players had championship points in the deciding tiebreak, but Hurkacz held on and sealed the victory with a 10-8 score, earning his second career Masters title. Next week, he will climb to No. 11 in the world rankings, suddenly finding himself in contention for the year-end finals. In tennis, one pleasant week can turn around a whole year of disappointment.
Jessica Roberts serves up the latest in the world of tennis. With a love for the racket sport, she reports on tennis matches, player rankings, and Grand Slam events, ensuring readers stay informed about the tennis world.