Miami Open 2021: Hubert Hurkacz upsets No2 seed Tsitsipas to reach first Masters semi
Pole to play either Rublev or Korda, with guarantee of new Masters champion come Sunday
So there will be a new Masters champion crowned come Easter Sunday in Miami, following the loss of three-time Masters champion and world No2 Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals to the resilient, super-fit, quietly-spoken Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut.
And a new name on the honours board at this elite level of the tour, topped only by the four Majors, is a special achievement.
There have not been many of them since Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer totted up more Masters titles than anyone else, but the big three are notable by their absence in Miami this year. Time, then, for some fresh blood, and especially after the only Miami champion in the draw, John Isner, went out—also to Bautista Agut.
The only other three-time Masters champion, Alexander Zverev, lost his second match, and a clutch of one-time winners had also all fallen along the way, but perhaps the man who many had expected to break the Masters glass ceiling before now, No2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, looked ready to step up.
The charismatic 22-year-old Greek had already reached two Masters finals and three more semi-finals, and his consistent quality had garnered three Major semi runs, too. He could also claim wins over those same ‘big three’, not once but twice over each of them.
Against his latest challenger, No26 seed Hubert Hurkacz, Tsitsipas held a significant advantage too, 6-1, though it was notable just how close their contests had been. Five of them took the full three sets, and not short sets: Their most recent, in Rotterdam last month, went the way of the Greek, 7-5.
But Hurkacz did have a title this year, in Delray Beach, and had impressed against Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic to reach the quarters. His long blocks of training in Miami were clearly paying off, but could he avenge all those close losses to Tsitsipas?
Tsitsipas was fast from the blocks, breaking Hurkacz in the first game, and then holding to love. The 24-year-old Pole was pressed again in the third game, but he brought his impressive backhand into play, and got to the net to hold, 1-2.
The Pole pummelled a forehand to work 0-30 against the Tsitsipas serve, but then netted a couple of backhands. On break point, the Greek fired an ace, but then offered up another break chance, and another, but Tsitsipas was up to the test, serving well, holding for 3-1.
The Greek fended off deuce again, 4-2, but it was taking him over five minutes a game to hold compared with three for Hurkacz. Yet Tsitsipas was becoming the more creative, working some different patterns, taking the initiative at the net. And it earned him two break chances in the sweltering conditions: He was drenched in sweat, but he manoeuvred his man to draw an error and the break, 5-2. He served out the set, 6-2, in just 41 minutes.
In the second set, Tsitsipas again broke straight away, and almost broke again, but Hurkacz held and had a chance to level in the fourth game. A wild framed shot from the Greek made it 2-2 on the dot of one hour.
Hurkacz had the chance to break again, but a superb ace held the Greek at 3-3. Then the Pole had to do the same, saving yet more break points to hold onto his narrow lead. He wisely changed shoes and socks, by now certainly saturated with moisture, but it was ultimately Tsitsipas’s errors that did the damage and conceded the long-awaited break. Hurkacz produced three aces and a drop volley winner to seal the set, 6-3.
After starting the set with a second time violation, Tsitsipas seemed to be losing some of his focus, and from 40-0 up in the fifth game, Hurkacz broke him to lead the match for the first time—an extraordinary turn-around from a set and break down, and even facing points for a double break.
The Pole ultimately had to prove his mettle to serve out the match, and he did so comfortably, 6-4, though with precisely the same number of points as his opponent, 94 of them, with a tally of 15 aces
Hurkacz will now play one of the form men of the last six months, No4 seed Andrey Rublev, or the unseeded Sebastian Korda—and the Pole has won the only match he played against both. He can already anticipate a new career-high ranking of 27, closer to 24 if he reaches the final.