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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday January 7, 2020


One of the brightest breakout stars of 2019 appears to be nowhere close to satiated by his success. That would be Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, the affable, earnest young lad who rose from outside the Top 80 to inside the Top 40 in 2019, a season that saw him claim his first ATP title and more than triple his overall ATP win total from 8 to 33.

Hurkacz won four matches against the Top 10 last year, won a set from Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, and developed a close relationship with new coach Craig Boynton, one that clearly paid dividends for his game.

He's already taken it to another level in 2020--watch out ATP Tour.

Boynton, a former coach of John Isner, Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson, has himself one of the better jobs in men’s tennis right now. Hurkacz is eminently coachable and driven to improve, is powerfully built at 6’5”, 180, and he moves exceptionally well for someone of his size. The Pole is also blessed with a high tennis IQ and he plays a cerebral style of game, moving the ball around the court to exploit his opponents’ weaknesses and open up points of attack.

This week in Australia Hurkacz was nothing short of fantastic in his three matches. He knocked off Borna Coric, Diego Schwartzman and Dominic Thiem in succession, and that success is a welcome relief because the Pole needed to erase the memories of a sluggish finish in 2019—he went just 2-5 in his last seven matches after he won his first ATP title at Winston-Salem.

That mini-slump appears to be a thing of the past now and Hurkacz looks poised to continue making an impact in 2020. He’s just a few spots off of his career-high ranking of 33 and it’s not that difficult to imagine him claiming a spot in the Top 20 or even higher by season’s end.

There's a reason that Hurkacz was able to rifle his way through a veritable murderer's row of ATP talent this week in Australia: His game is that good. And by the end of the season, judging from the progress he has clearly made in the off-season, he should be even better. Hurkacz has a great base of skill from which to work. He’s doesn't rely on any one shot, possesses no apparent weaknesses and is still settling into himself in terms of assertiveness, confidence and experience. As Hurkacz makes his way through his second full ATP season, expect him to gain comfort in himself and what he is capable of.

Additonally, starting a season with three wins against Top 30 (and two Top 15) players, two of which were comebacks from a set down, should do wonders for Hurkacz' self-belief. When an evolving player like the 22-year-old Wroclaw, Poland native sees that the work he is doing is paying off, he’ll trust the process even more and dive deeper into the work. Apparently, he’s a good fit with Boynton and the pair are laying out sensible steps for success.


As far as ranking points go, Hurkacz has only one Grand Slam win to defend in 2020, and a quarterfinal at Indian Wells. There’s not a ton of big results to chase however, and the easy-going Pole will be able to just relax and keep developing his game for the challenges to come.

But don’t be mistaken, Hurkacz is already legitimately developed. If he looked like he was still growing to his body last season, this year he looks like he's the master of that body. He seems less clunky when he moves, lighter and more decisive footwork-wise, and his strokes are pure and repeatable. He’s got a diverse backhand, and a big forehand that he can drive or play with margin. He’s very good on the smash, unafraid to get to the net and touch off points with volleys, he’s a solid returner (especially for his size) and he’s got the perfect tennis demeanor. Hurkacz is fiery and intense but not over emotional. He is an explosive player but he’s also a pragmatic one, someone who thinks his points through and really has a good feel for what shot to make for each moment in a rally.

If he continues to play with the swagger that he put on display at the ATP Cup, expect to see Hurkacz push for the second week at a few Slams this year and maybe he’ll go even deeper at a few masters.

There will be a lot of eyeballs on other proven young players such as Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex de Minaur, Denis Shapovalov in 2020, but do not sleep on Hubert Hurkacz. He’s on the rise and he’ll be a big part of the conversation by the end of the season.

 

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