© ATP World Tour

Hubert Hurkacz is into the second round of his first US Open after advancing past Italian Stefano Travaglia.

Hurkacz Wants To Climb 'As High As Possible'

Pole will try for first Top 10 win against Cilic

This time one year ago, Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz was No. 404 in the ATP Rankings. He still had to battle through qualifying at many ATP Challenger Tour events, and was still competing on the ITF Futures circuit.

But after advancing past Italy’s Stefano Travaglia in his first-ever US Open match on Tuesday, the #NextGenATP 21-year-old is on the verge of cracking the Top 100 for the first time.

“I was imagining that I can be here, but obviously it was a very long way away,” Hurkacz, currently No. 109, told ATPWorldTour.com. “I’m very happy with today’s win.”

Hurkacz is making a push in the ATP Race To Milan, currently placed ninth. This time in last year’s Race, the Pole was 62nd. The Top 7 players aged 21-and-under qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, to be held from 6-10 November, with the eighth competitor coming from a 21-and-under Italian wild card event.

“Obviously it would be a goal to qualify there,” Hurkacz said. “I just need to get some points, win some matches, focus on my game and that’s how I can get there.“

Of the Top 10 players in the Race, Hurkacz has risen the most places in the ATP Rankings, jumping 295 spots since this time last season. It all started in Shenzhen, China toward the end of 2017, when he made his maiden Challenger final before falling in a tough three-setter against Moldovan Radu Albot. He would claim his maiden victory at that level in Poznan, Poland this June.

You May Also Like: #NextGenATP First-Time Winner: Hubert Hurkacz

“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.”

Hurkacz was also happy with his performance at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the New York heat. The #NextGenATP player quickly lost the second set, and was struggling with the humidity. But he was happy to refocus to pull out the third set and eventually advance when Travaglia retired in the fourth set due to cramps.

“I started pretty well. The first set was pretty good. And then I went a bit down in the second set. He broke me, started to play a little bit better and the heat started to affect me a little bit,” Hurkacz said. “I started to breathe a little bit better and obviously I started to play a little bit better.”

Now, the highest-ranked player from Poland will look to announce himself to the wider tennis world on one of the sport’s grandest stages. Hurkacz next plays 2014 champion Marin Cilic, whom he lost to in a tight four-setter in the second round at Roland Garros.

And while he looks forward to the challenge, he knows that win or lose, his goals are changing. One year ago, he wasn’t in the Top 400. Now, while he will take it one small goal at a time, his ultimate vision is clear.

“I want to go as high as possible.”