Paris Masters 2021: Hurkacz joins Ruud to complete final line-up for ATP Finals
With Djokovic, Medvedev, Zverev, Tsitsipas, Rublev, Berrettini, it will be youngest finale since 2009
The Turin line-up was almost signed, sealed and delivered. Sadly for the new home nation, the young No8 seed Jannik Sinner had all but slipped out of contention with his defeat by the even younger star in the Paris Masters draw, Carlos Alcaraz.
Italian spirits, though, were sure to be lifted by the presence of Matteo Berrettini, who had pulled out of Paris in order to get the body in shape for one last push on home soil in a week’s time.
However, Sinner’s glimmer of hope, like that of Briton Cameron Norrie, remained in the hands of the current No8 in the Race, the tall Pole Hubert Hurkacz, who needed only to win his quarter-final match against James Duckworth to ensure his place among the elite eight in Turin.
The pugnacious tennis of Aussie Duckworth had already caused problems for the likes of Roberto Bautista Agut, and his style was certainly rather different from most in the Paris draw—though the slow courts did little to help his big serve-and-volley plays and aggressive groundies. What they did help were his other weapons, the swing and spin and variety he can use to keep opponents’ mental and physical muscles busy.
Sure enough, Duckworth, who has suffered more surgeries in the past decade than any player deserves, proved to be a worthy opponent for Hurkacz. The Pole looked in control of things in the first set, with two breaks of serve to lead, 6-2, but the second set was a much closer affair.
With both men serving below par, and exchanging breaks, the pace then heated up as they headed to a tie-break, and there, Duckworth channelled his signature attacking game to go 4-0.
Hurkacz found himself serving at 3-6, and played a patient, cat-and-mouse rally, the longest of the match. Both men were hitting the lines, both slicing and dicing, and Duckworth finally found the net. But the Aussie would not be denied, raced to the net for the 13th time in the set, and took it, 7-6(4).
The ultra-aggressive Duckworth had made 17 winners for just 12 errors, and looked ready for more. Hurkacz needed to take the initiative, play less passively, and take the front of the court away from the Aussie. He did just that with two consecutive love holds to open the final set.
By the time the Pole served to hold for 5-4, he had dropped only one point on serve, but Duckworth was also beginning to drop fewer points on serve. He then went on the offensive at his first hint of a chance in the set, 5-5, and rushed the net at deuce on the Hurkacz serve. But the Pole was on the alert, and pulled off a fine pass down the line. The Aussie would have to serve to take it to another tie-break.
Hurkacz came up with a stunning net attack to work match point, but Duckworth replied in kind, only to miss out on a sliced backhand exchange for another match point. This time, the Pole dived in to make a lob off a drop-shot, and it did the job, 7-5, after two and a quarter hours.
So the 24-year-old became the second Polish player to earn a place in the season finale (Wojtek Fibak was runner-up in 1976), and a just reward for a stand-out season that he began with a ranking of 35.
He won Delray Beach, then went on to become the lowest ranked Masters champion in 16 years at the Miami Open. At Wimbledon, he captured more headlines with a semi run via Daniil Medvedev and Roger Federer, and a title run in September in Metz took him into the top 10.
At the start of the Paris Masters, there were five men vying for the last two places, and Hurkacz’s win today followed that of fellow debutant Casper Ruud, who reached the quarter-finals with his 53rd match-win of 2021.
The 22-year-old will be the first Norwegian in the singles draw of the ATP Finals, and that from a ranking of 28 at the start of 2021. He broke into the top 10 after winning three consecutive titles during the European clay-court swing—Bastad, Gstaad, and Kitzbuhel—having also made the semis in two Masters, Monte-Carlo and Madrid. He went on to win in Geneva and San Diego, proving in the process that he was not just a talent on clay: He is up to 23-7 on hard courts for the year.
With Medvedev and Berrettini aged 25, Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev aged 24, and Stefanos Tsitsipas aged 23, the Turin eight will combine to make the season finale the youngest since 2009: 26. Indeed the only over-30 in Turin will be top seed Novak Djokovic, who was the first to qualify during his record-making season that produced three Major titles and the runner-up trophy in the fourth.
But while Djokovic does not need the points that come with Paris match-wins this week in order to qualify for Turin, he does have his eyes set on other prizes, not least the year-end No1 and a record-making 37th Masters title. Both are within his reach at a tournament where he has already won a record five titles, and he reached the semis with a win over Taylor Fritz, 6-4, 6-3.
Race to Turin [remaining tournaments]
1. Novak Djokovic 8,730
2. Daniil Medvedev 6,650 [+180 by reaching SFs]
3. Alexander Zverev 5,775 [+180 by reaching SFs]
4. Stefanos Tsitsipas 5,695
5. Andrey Rublev 4,210
6. Matteo Berrettini 4,090
7. Hubert Hurkacz 3,315
8. Casper Ruud 3,275 [+180 by reaching SFs]
Current reserve places
Jannik Sinner 3,015 [Stockholm 250]
Cameron Norrie 2,945 [Stockholm 250]