WASHINGTON, January 14, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)
When opportunity came knocking for Hubert Hurkacz, he ran with it. Winning his second ATP Tour singles title was no easy street for the likable native of Poland, who has become a transplanted Florida resident – even though his draw en route to lifting the trophy at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com didn’t include facing anyone inside the Top 100.
On Wednesday afternoon, the 35th-ranked Hurkacz defeated No. 119 Sebastian Korda of the United States, 6-3, 6-3, which denied the NextGen rising American star from winning his first ATP Tour-level title. Instead, it made Hurkacz a winner on the ATP Tour for the first since 2019 at Winston-Salem – also on an outdoor hardcourt – when he became just the second Polish man to win an ATP title in the Open Era. He came from 1-3 down to capture five straight games to take the opening set. Then, his break of Korda’s service in the fifth game of the second set provided him with just enough of an edge that he didn’t squander it. Hurkacz won on his first match-point opportunity.
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) January 13, 2021
On the way to his title triumph, the 23-year-old Hurkacz beat No. 115 Daniel Elahi Galan in the second round following a bye; No. 293 Roberto Quiroz in the quarterfinals and No. 789 Christian Harrison in the semifinals. Each win came in straight sets.
The last ATP title winner without facing a Top 100 opponent? None other than Steve Johnson of the United States, in the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport in 2018. However, there was no need for the No. 4 seed Hurkacz to apologize. He simply played the draw that he was dealt – round-by-round – and he didn’t drop a set all week.
“That’s pretty strange isn’t it?” Hurkacz commented when a reporter reminded him during his virtual press conference. “The guys I played were super tough, especially the semifinal match. Christian [Harrison] played really amazing. Today, Sebastian started really well. He put some pressure on me and I was trying to do the same the first set. I think I raised my level a little bit. He’s going to get many titles in the future. He’s a great player.”
During the 68-minute final, Hurkacz served four aces, won 71 percent (27 of 38) of his first serves and points won on his second-serve was an impressive 58 percent (7 of 12). His serve was broken just once. Meanwhile, Korda struggled at times with his own service games, especially after taking a medical time out during the third-game change over in the second set to have his left groin bandaged. He won only 61 percent (20 of 33) of his first serves and his service was broken four times. Hurkacz outpointed Korda 60-45.
A dream start to the season for 🇵🇱 @HubertHurkacz!
— ATP Tour (@atptour) January 13, 2021
“After 2-1, [Hubert] played a really good match. He was in a rhythm and playing some good tennis. So, all the credit to him. I’m still super happy with how this whole tournament turned out [for me],” Korda remarked during his virtual news conference.
“I was trying to focus on [the] things that I should do and to stay aggressive, because Sebastian is never going to hand me the match,” Hurkacz suggested. “Sometimes it’s even tougher when your opponent is not feeling 100 percent well. He’s trying to focus on what he can do, and he can serve big and hit big shots from the baseline. So, it was crucial for me to stay aggressive and get an advantage there. …
“The way [Korda] is playing, it will be amazing what he can achieve in the future,” Hurkacz suggested. “It’s too bad that he wasn’t 100 percent fit today, but his game is there. I’m sure he’ll be holding many trophies in the future.”
Looking back at his own successful title run in Delray Beach, located on the Florida Atlantic coast north of Miami/Fort Lauderdale, the first Polish-born player to win the Delray Beach Open title in the history of the tournament said he appreciated some of the simple things that often go unnoticed or are taken for granted at an ATP Tour tournament.
“It’s really amazing to win the title here,” Hurkacz said. “It was really nice to play with a crowd. It was nice that there were some Polish people who came and supported me. That was really great.”
Hint: an all-nighter might be involved 👀 pic.twitter.com/wI3y6M91Km
— Delray Beach Open (@DelrayBeachOpen) January 13, 2021
Meanwhile, there will be better days ahead for Korda, for sure. He certainly garnered plenty of attention and admiration during his run-up to the final and always comported himself in a polite, friendly manner.
“I’m always learning and it’s always a process,” Korda said. “I’m only 20-years-old and playing in my first ATP final is something I’ll always cherish. It will remind me of what I need to do next time I get an opportunity to play in a final.”
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The perfect start to 2021 for Ariel Behar & @goescobar89! 🙌
— ATP Tour (@atptour) January 13, 2021