Hurkacz Beats Friend, Foe Sinner For Miami Title

Hubert Hurkacz (photo: courtesy ATP Tour video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, April 4, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner of Italy are two of the nicest players on the ATP Tour. They’re friends off the court, occasional doubles partners on it, and on Sunday afternoon, they were foes – the center of attention – on the Grandstand court at Hard Rock Stadium. Each of them had their eyes on winning the first ATP Masters 1000 title of the season at the Miami Open presented by Itaú. It’s too bad only one of them could earn the title of Miami Master.

During the south Florida fortnight that ended in victory for the No. 26 seed Hurkacz, 7-6 (4), 6-4, both he and the 19-year-old Sinner were presented with plenty of opportunities and they seized more than their fair share of them. Now, as each played in his first Masters 1000 final, it became a question of who could perform best under pressure as well as clutching each important opportunity that came their way. On Easter Sunday, it proved to be Hurkacz. At age 24, he became the first Polish man to win an ATP Masters 1000 crown.

“Last year I spent so much time in Florida,” Hurkacz told Tennis TourTalk, as if it were a coincidence that he’s undefeated (10-0) in the Sunshine State after winning two different tournaments this year. “I was here like almost half of the year. So, like, that was I think pretty – I mean, we were working hard, and I think I’m used to the conditions. So that’s I think been part of the success I had here in Florida.”

While not playing his best tennis, Hurkacz nevertheless played better than the No. 21 seed Sinner when it counted the most. He pulled through to win the first-set in a tie break 7-4. It came about after Sinner broke Hurkacz at 5-all and was serving for the first set, ahead 6-5. However, he was abruptly broken at love. Hurkacz immediately took advantage of that opportunity and broke Sinner four times during the tie break to win the set. He put it away after Sinner hit a forehand return long that capped a 25-shot rally on set point. It improved Hurkacz’s tie-break record to 6-0 this year, including 4-0 at the Miami Open.

Then, Hurkacz wasted no time in breaking Sinner on his second opportunity in the opening game of the second set. He consolidated the break and broke Sinner, again, for a double-break 3-0 lead while putting on a master class for everyone in the Grandstand audience – and especially the young Italian – to appreciate. Hurkacz would break Sinner in four of 11 opportunities. Soon, an easy love hold put Hurkacz further in command at 4-0.

Although Sinner saved two break points to hold in his next service game, it became a matter of time before Hurkacz would close out the victory. Before he did, however, Sinner broke Hurkacz for the third and final time and consolidated it to trail 3-4, with a slim chance that he could turn the match around. However, Hurkacz hit a forehand winner at 40-30 to win the next game and increase his lead to 5-3 with a chance to serve out the title victory in his next opportunity.

Finally, at 5-4 and serving for the match, Hurkacz put away the title on his first championship point opportunity. It was a memorable one, too, lasting 20 shots that ended with Sinner hitting one final return long. After one hour and 43 minutes, it was Hurkacz who raised his arms in victory, celebrating his first ATP Masters 1000 title win.

“Hubi, many congratulations for this week and a half,” said Sinner during the trophy presentation. “I think you showed what talent you have. I’m more proud what kind of person you are. I have to say [you are] maybe my best friend on Tour. Maybe we should play more doubles together.”

Later, during his post-match virtual press conference, Sinner admitted the bottom line was simple: “Today you win or you learn.

“When you’re 19 and playing finals here, obviously it’s tough, and I wanted to win. I was a bit nervous from the beginning of the match or already yesterday, but, you know, it’s normal, you know, because you really want to win. But today was not my day, and congrats to Hubi.”

When Hurkacz finally arrived for his virtual press conference, he beamed a big smile and remained his happy-go-lucky self – and remained undefeated in Florida this year after winning titles in both Delray Beach in January and now Miami in April. He said: “Winning the tournament like this like gives you extra, I think, like motivation and self-confidence that, ‘Okay, like, you’re able to do it, like you came through like some really like hard moments here.'”

Third title this year for Aoyama and Shibahara

Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, both from Japan, claimed their third title of their season and the biggest of their careers at the Miami Open. The No. 5 seeds defeated No. 8 seeds Hayley Carter of the United States and Luisa Stefani from Brazil, 6-2, 7-5, Sunday afternoon. The victory improved their season win-loss record to 17-4. They previously won titles this year at Abu Dhabi (also against Carter and Stefani) and the Yarra Valley Classic at Melbourne.

“Miami Open was one of the few tournaments that I was really looking forward to playing, especially because I was born and raised in the U.S.,” Shibahara said after the title victory. “Indian Wells/Miami are like the sunshine tournaments. Every time it would be playing on my TV screen when I was little, I was, like, I want to play on this stage. For me, this title is really special.”

Aoyama added: “Honestly I can’t believe [we won Miami] because it’s a very big tournament, next to aGrand Slam. We can get more confidence. We want to try to play at the Grand Slam like today.”

News & noteworthy

• With his title victory, Hubert Hurkacz will break into the Top 20 for the first time when the FedEx ATP Rankings are updated Monday. He goes from No. 37 to a career-high of No. 16. Jannik Sinner is projected to reach a new career-high, too, rising to No. 22.

• Hubert Hurkacz was the second Pole to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final, joining Jerzy Janowicz, who was a finalist at Paris in 2012. By winning the Miami Open, it’s his third career singles title to go along with winning Winston-Salem in 2019 and Delray Beach earlier this year, and he’s the first Polish man to win a Masters 1000 title.

• Jannik Sinner was just the second Italian to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final, joining Fabio Fognini, who won the 2019 Monte-Carlo Masters in the only other appearance for an Italian in an ATP Masters 1000 final.

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