© Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Hubert Hurkacz, in action in Monte Carlo, grew up playing on clay in Poland.

Clay-Court Ready: Hurkacz Hunts Winning Formula In Madrid

Pole competes in second clay-court event of the season in Madrid this week

The clay-court swing on the ATP Tour is a time for high-bouncing balls, lung-busting exchanges, red-stained socks and sliding into shots.

For Hubert Hurkacz, the period represents a chance to climb the ATP Rankings as he looks to transfer his strong hard-court form onto the red dirt. The Pole went 1-4 on clay in 2021 but has already earned three wins on the surface this year after advancing to the quarter-finals at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.

Ahead of making his third appearance at the Mutua Madrid Open, Hurkacz revealed he is feeling confident that his game can continue to match up well on the clay this year.

“It is going to be better than last year because I was not winning matches then,” Hurkacz told ATPTour.com. “I have done some work with my coach and I am starting to feel better on clay courts. I think my game is going to be good. I think I have the capacity to play really well on the surface.

“I think I can move decently on clay courts. That helps, I can get to the ball. I feel that I can hit the ball hard on clay because I have more time on clay, so that is beneficial for me. I am just working on my game generally to improve on the surface.”

You May Also Like: The Tour - Food Court: Indian Food & Pad Thai On The Menu For Hurkacz

The World No. 14 has enjoyed standout results on both hard and grass, capturing his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami last year before he defeated Roger Federer en route to the semi-finals at Wimbledon.

While his thunderous groundstrokes and powerful serve are well suited on hard and grass courts, Hurkacz actually played primarily on clay when he was younger as he developed his game in Poland.

“In Poland we have so many clay courts, so when I was young I played a lot on clay courts,” Hurkacz said. “I definitely played way more on clay than I did on hard. From the age of eight all the way through until I was 16, I used to play on clay courts and enjoyed it. I feel comfortable playing on it.”

Hurkacz is defending just 143 ATP Ranking points from this week through the week of 20 June. He has already earned 180 points on the surface this year from Monte Carlo. With American Taylor Fritz the only player ranked above Hurkacz defending fewer points in that period, the Pole is targeting a return to the Top 10, after dropping out on 4 April 2022.

“It is definitely a focus to get back into the Top 10,” Hurkacz admitted. “If I can play at a good level, I will have chances to win tournaments. It is all about getting my game to a good spot and then I will have bigger opportunities to produce better results and reach finals.”

The 25-year-old was ranked outside the Top 30 at the start of the 2021 season. However, after capturing three tour-level titles, he qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin for the first time.

He is aiming to use the prestigious end-of-year event as fuel for further motivation in the coming weeks.

“Turin was a huge experience for me. I felt great there and the experience has really helped me,” Hurkacz said when reflecting on the prestigious end-of-year event. “It is also a big motivation to try and qualify again this year. Trying to become a better player and person. I want to improve my ranking and qualify for Turin.

“At the beginning of the year I had high expectations of myself. I wanted to do really well. I feel that I have got used to it now and am dealing with the pressure better and doing well.”

Hurkacz will face Bolivian qualifier Hugo Dellien in his opening match in Madrid as he looks to carry his Monte Carlo momentum into the second clay-court ATP Masters 1000 event of the season.

“I really, really like the city. Madrid is great,” Hurkacz said as he aims to win his first title of the season in the Spanish capital. “It is quite quick the surface here, which I feel suits my game and I feel I can have a good run here.”

More stories like this in: