5 Things To Know About Hurkacz, Who's Headed To Milan

The Pole will make his Next Gen ATP Finals debut

A week before the ATP Race To Milan ended on 29 October, Poland's Hubert Hurkacz still had some work to do to try to secure his place at the Next Gen ATP Finals. The 21-year-old Pole was 11th in the Race, 50 points behind ninth-placed Frenchman Ugo Humbert, who, at the time, was in line to be the first alternate in Milan.

But a trio of events propelled Hurkacz to the coveted ninth spot. Humbert withdrew from last week's Brest ATP Challenger, 10th-placed Michael Mmoh of the U.S. fell in the first round to Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis, and Hurkacz had one of the best weeks of his 2018. The 6'5” right-hander won five consecutive matches to win his second ATP Challenger title, beating Berankis in the Brest final.

Now, with the withdrawal of Denis Shapovalov due to exhaustion, Hurkacz will make his debut at the 21-and-under event, to be held 6-10 November at the Fiera Milano. Here are five things to know about Poland's #NextGenATP player:

1. He's Ambitious
Hurkacz started 2018 at No. 238 in the ATP Rankings, and he's at a career-high No. 79 this week, a climb of 159 spots in less than a year. Yet, earlier in the season, Hurkacz wanted to make an even bigger jump.

After he won his first ATP Challenger Title in Poznan, Poland, in June, Hurkacz told ATPWorldTour.com: “I think it’s possible to move into the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings. That's my goal.”

2. Gained Belief Despite Losing
There's nothing quite like making a final to bolster your belief. Hurkacz lost his first ATP Challenger final last year in Shenzhen in a tough three-setter against Moldovan Radu Albot. But the result helped him achieve his breakthrough 2018.

That gave me confidence, and also I built up my game, so I think I’m stronger physically now and also mentally,” Hurkacz said. “That gave me a lot of confidence, gave me some energy to focus in practice and it was a really good end of last year for me, so I was happy with that.”

Watch: Get To Know Hurkacz

3. Proudly Carrying The Polish Flag
Hurkacz is the only Pole inside the Top 200 of the ATP Rankings, although countryman Lukasz Kubot reached No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Rankings in January. Hurkacz, however, is keen on improving Polish tennis throughout his career.

It would be very nice to help tennis grow in Poland, so that many younger players will compete at the ATP level in the future. Of course, there are many younger guys who play well and I hope that when they are finished playing junior tournaments they will come here to the Challenger level and even higher,” he said.

4. Could Bring Home The Hardware
As if making the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan will not be reward enough after a great season, Hurkacz is in contention to receive the 2018 ATP Newcomer of the Year honour later this year.

ATP World Tour players will vote for the Newcomer of the Year in the 2018 ATP World Tour Awards Presented by Moët & Chandon, with eligible players being #NextGenATP competitors who have cracked the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings for the first time this season (as of 15 October). The nominees are Hurkacz, Humbert, Aussie Alex de Minaur, Mmoh and Spain's Jaume Munar.

Read More: Get To Know 2018 Newcomer Nominees

5. Considers Mental Strength One Of His Best Assets
Hurkacz loves to use his forehand to the open court and make his opponents run. But Hurkacz, who was coached by Pawel Stadniczenko until June this year, also points to his confidence and mental toughness as one of his best assets.

[Stadniczenko] helped me a lot and I'm very thankful to him. He especially helped me mentally, to stay positive. That was the biggest change. To be more solid during the matches and not have as many ups and downs. I'm competing at a higher level and am now able to win against better opponents. It's good.”