With the “Big Three” absent at the Miami Open, and tennis’ next generation scrambling to fill the void, it was Hubert Hurkacz who made a breakthrough.
The Polish 24-year-old on Sunday claimed the biggest title of his career by beating 19-year-old Jannik Sinner of Italy 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
Hurkacz improved to 10-0 in Florida this year, including the Delray Beach title in January. Previously ranked 37th, he yesterday climbed to a career-high 16th in the world rankings.
“I was super happy I was able to lift the biggest trophy of my life so far,” Hurkacz said. “I played some of the best tennis I ever played. I was solid throughout the whole tournament.”
The matchup in the final was a surprise even though Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer skipped the tournament, as did reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem.
“We knew that Rafa, Roger, Novak, Thiem were not playing,” Sinner said. “It was a big opportunity for many players.”
It was Hurkacz who took full advantage. Along the way he eliminated second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and fourth seed Andrey Rublev — the first time he has beaten two top-10 opponents in a tournament.
Hurkacz became his nation’s first Masters 1000 champion.
“Hopefully with my game I can inspire some people in Poland,” he said. “Hopefully they enjoyed it there.”
Hurkacz returned well against Sinner, breaking four times, and came to the net at key moments.
“To win against Jannik, you need to come up with some really good stuff,” Hurkacz said. “He’s an amazing player and has an amazing future. I tried to stay as solid as I can because he can hit the ball so hard.”
Hurkacz raced to a 3-0 lead, briefly fell behind, and then played a solid tiebreaker, closing it out by winning a 25-stroke rally.
Sinner served leading 6-5 in the first set and was broken at love. He lost his serve twice more to fall behind 4-0 in the second.
“I was not serving well, especially in the beginning of the second set, and not returning deep enough,” Sinner said.
It was then Hurkacz’s turn to wobble, but he held his final two service games and sealed the win after a 20-shot rally on championship point, with Sinner pushing a forehand wide.
“I was super happy he missed the shot at the end,” Hurkacz said with a grin.
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