Hubert Hurkacz booked a place in the Rolex Paris Masters semi-finals on Friday and also became the final singles qualifier for the Nitto ATP Finals later this month.
The seventh-seeded Pole’s greater experience and a strong service performance in the decider helped him to beat first-time ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finalist James Duckworth 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-5 victory in two hours and 13 minutes.
Hurkacz, a winner of the Miami Open presented by Itau title and two other ATP Tour crowns this year, will now prepare to face World No. 1 and five-time former champion Novak Djokovic in south-west Paris on Saturday.
Later next week, the 24-year-old will join Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini and Casper Ruud at the season finale, which will take place at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November.
“It’s obviously a dream come true to be at the Finals,” Hurkacz told the Tennis Channel. “I played at the Next Gen Finals so I thought to myself maybe one day I would get to the main one. I’m just super happy.
“I’m getting so much support, especially from other athletes… I’m privileged to be in this position and I hope I am making Poland a little proud. Interest [in tennis] is growing in Poland also with Iga [Swiatek], who is in the WTA Finals, so it’s amazing to have both players at the high level. Hopefully we will have a lot more guys and girls join the top soon.”[FOLLOW 1000]
Hurkacz applied pressure right from the start, but it wasn’t until Duckworth made a backhand slice error to be broken at 2-2 that the Pole really settled. Duckworth paid the price for just two first serves into court at 2-4 and Hurkacz coolly closed out the 31-minute opener in the next game.
Out of nowhere, World No. 55 Duckworth took a 4-2 advantage in the second set when his opponent pushed a forehand wide, but his lead was short-lived. Hurkacz broke back immediately, and was left to watch Duckworth’s great hands and aggressive tennis in the tie-break. Duckworth took a 4/0 lead, but Hurkacz responded with three straight points. The Australian didn’t waver and although he lost a 37-stroke rally at 6/3, he closed out the second set with a backhand winner.
Hurkacz didn’t blink and won 23 of his first 24 service points in the decider, before Duckworth returned to his aggressive best at 5-5. Duckworth held firm from the baseline after saving one break point at 0-1 and later saved two match points at 5-5, 15/40, but Hurkacz completed victory with a lob winner. He follows in the footsteps of 1976 runner-up Wojtek Fibak as a Nitto ATP Finals qualifier from Poland.
“James was playing some really good tennis,” said Hurkacz. “He was very solid throughout the whole match, especially [in the] second and third sets. He was serving well and it was not easy to play against him. Obviously, in the back of my mind, I [knew] that basically I had to win today. So that was putting a little bit more pressure [to] push me to compete as hard as I could.”
Duckworth, who was seeking his first Top 10 win (0-10 lifetime), is now 22-19 on the season, which includes a run to the Astana Open final in Nur-Sultan (l. to Kwon).
“I’ll definitely take a lot of positives from this week,” said Duckworth. “Since playing [in] Miami, I feel like I have been playing some good tennis and improving. There’s still a few areas I need to get better at to get higher up the [FedEx ATP] Rankings.”