Boynton, Hurkacz's Coach: Causing Chaos & Weathering Storms At Wimbledon
Quietly, Hubert Hurkacz has enjoyed an impressive run to the second week at Wimbledon. The Polish star is not just the only man through to the fourth round without losing a set, but he has not lost serve once. The 14th seed has defeated #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti, American Marcos Giron and Kazakhstani Alexander Bublik en route to the Round of 16.
It is a performance reminiscent of the 24-year-old’s run to his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami earlier this year. Based on his form, you would not know that Hurkacz arrived at The Championships on a six-match losing streak.
If I would have told you before this tournament that Hubi would be into the second week without losing serve, how happy would you have been?
I would have been very happy. You never know when the work is going to come good. I’ve been around enough to know that guys at this level, when they take four, five, six, seven losses in a row, they’re eventually going to come good because they’re good players. Everyone goes through a little bit of a bad patch and usually what happens is you pare down and get back to basics and simplify things. One thing goes well and then another thing goes well and a few more things go well and all of a sudden you’re back to where you thought you could be.
It happens all the time in sports and tennis. It’s happening with Hubi and he’s gotten himself in a good spot. He’s playing well, seeing the court well and obviously serving well, which helps to hold serve. It’s a few little things that go your way that mushroom into a few more things. That morphs into more and then the next thing you know you have momentum.
What’s interesting about how dominant Hubi has been on serve is that not only has he not been broken, but he’s only faced four break points in three matches. How crazy is that?
He’s been locked in and dialed in on serve. He’s got a very, very good serve. His serving percentages have been above average for him, they’ve been very good. He’s been hitting his spots and it’s grass. You get hot on grass and a lot of times guys get broken because they’re missing first serves, and his first-serve percentage has been pretty good. If he hasn’t won the point outright with his serve, then he’s been setting up his plus-one shot to be offensive and aggressive. He’s done a great job with that.
He hasn’t been playing similar players each round in Lorenzo Musetti, Marcos Giron and Alexander Bublik. How happy has it made you that he has adjusted so well?
Grass is a pretty interesting surface. I would prefer if Hubi would play the way that he knows he can play on grass. It suits his game and the way he plays and the way he is thinking better — or more offensive-minded — on grass. If he can take care of his side of the court, it forces his opponent to adjust and to try to make some other adjustments that might not normally be so comfortable for them.
Grass I think is the trickiest of all the surfaces, so it doesn’t tend to lend to you playing multiple styles. You’ve got to be true to the grass and play with what it gives you. Hubi’s game is more in line with that, so he’s feeling more comfortable just playing his normal game on a grass court, which then puts him in favourable positions.
Hubi has been flying under the radar a bit because of his form entering the tournament. How important do you think that is for him and does he not love having the attention?
He’s pretty simple. He’s good either way, he really is. Hubi is a low-key, simple guy when it comes to stuff like that. I don’t have to deal with that with him. You want the attention because you’re winning matches, which is great. The more matches you win, the better court you’ll be put on. You’ve got to take care of the things you’ve got to take care of.
Next round is a tough match against second seed Daniil Medvedev. As a coach, how much will you look at the first half of Medvedev’s third-round match against Marin Cilic, in which he had to come from two sets down? Hubi might not be Marin, but how much do you look at that for takeaways or do you just focus on what Hubi can do?
Tennis is cause and effect. The ball is hit a certain way and that affects the opponent in a certain way, and then they respond. When I scout a match, I look at which positions are favourable for Hubi and which positions are favourable for his opponent. Then I try to explain to Hubi, ‘These are the positions that are going to be favourable for your opponent.’ There was a reason Marin was doing something in the first two sets that maybe he wasn’t doing in the final three sets. But maybe Medvedev was doing something in the final three sets to stop Marin from being able to do things so positively.
The strategy and match definitely changed. It had a different vibe to it from what I was watching from the third set on compared to the first two. There are definitely things there that you can take away that Hubi can get into some favourable positions, which would cause the advantage to swing his way for sure.
How excited do you get when your player is in one of these big matches on a big stage against a player like Medvedev?
This is why the players work so hard. It’s to get into positions like this. These matches and these tournaments always reveal what’s working, what’s gotten better and what needs to improve. That’s what I look at. This isn’t the finish line by any stretch, but this shows us if what we are doing is working: yes, no or maybe? What is the next step for him or what is the next step for him to improve? It’s about evolution.
We’re always searching for improvements until he wants to put down the racquets and do something different. What you work on might change, because you sit down with a set of goals and once you achieve those goals, you need to replace them with new ones. The better you get, the harder you’ve got to work for the smaller the improvement. Margins are so slim and so small at that top level, that you really have to work and be more diligent with what your game plan is and what your lesson plan is from day to day.
If there is one thing you’d like Hubi to really do well that can help him the rest of the tournament, what would that be and why?
The person that wins this tournament will have won 21 sets, and during that time, generally you’re going to have some moments where there is a lot going against you or things aren’t running the way you want them to run. The player who holds that trophy is the one who is going to be resilient, be able to stay calm and put their best foot forward and do their best at causing chaos and causing disruption. But also, when that is turned around, they stay calm and they can get out of those moments quicker than their opponent.
That’s really it when it comes down to the second week. As the tournament rolls on, the stakes get higher and higher and the perception of pressure gets higher and higher. It’s all going to be about who is able to stay the calmest and play their best tennis when the moments are perceived as bigger.
How much do you think what Hubi did in Miami will help him in this tournament having experienced the pressure of being deep in a big tournament before?
Hubi had never done it before and he got through it in Miami, so I would hope that deep down he would have the confidence that “Hey, I’ve been here before.” And that’s when the players who have been there before — they’ve been through those perceived pressures or big moments — they’ve been through it so many times that it’s like second nature.
That’s why I always find it very impressive if someone does something for the first time and comes good and wins the tournament. That’s a “wow” factor when they haven’t been there and experienced it. I’m hopeful that’s the case, but I don’t think about it too much and don’t necessarily talk about it much at all unless I have to, unless he brings it up. I just try to keep things really simple and if there’s no reason to talk about it, there’s no reason to bring it up. But I’m hopeful he can draw on that if and when the time comes and he needs to.