Hubert Hurkacz is making waves in Poland during the Miami Open presented by Itau, where the 24-year-old is into his first ATP Masters 1000 final. That means Wojtek Fibak, a Pole who cracked the world’s Top 10 in singles and doubles, is a busy man.
Fibak, the only other player from their country to win an ATP Tour singles title, has been getting 100 calls a day with requests to speak about Hurkacz. While talking to ATPTour.com on Saturday, the 67-time tour-level titlist (singles and doubles) said his two phones buzzed 10 times with calls from newspapers, radio bookers and TV stations.
“The whole of Poland is living his adventure,” Fibak said. “It’s thrilling for Poland.”
It’s been an exciting time for tennis in the country, and not just because of Hurkacz’s dream run in Florida. Last year, Polish WTA Tour star Iga Swiatek lifted the trophy at Roland Garros.
“Each time when we were talking about Iga last year, I always mentioned Hubert in all the interviews. I always said Hubert is equally talented,” Fibak said. “He moves like Iga on the court. He’s the fastest, he’s the best mover. He has a great forehand, great backhand. All the characteristics of Iga fit Hubert. I’ve always said Hubert has the same potential as Iga, so it doesn’t come as a big surprise.”
This is not the first time Hurkacz has shown his skills. He competed in the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals and has won two ATP Tour titles — at Winston Salem in 2019 and Delray Beach earlier this year. But Fibak first saw him play as a junior at Roland Garros.
“I remember just the way he walked, like a basketball player a little bit. I thought of Andy Murray and I thought he had great defence and great hands, but he wasn’t as consistent then,” Fibak said. “It’s difficult to be consistent with his tennis because he hits so flat, he doesn’t have any reserves. He doesn’t use topspin.
“With time, he became more consistent and then he became really dangerous.”
Fibak admitted that he doesn’t “pretend to do anything” officially for Hurkacz, but he keeps in touch with his countryman. Last December, he invited “Hubi” to his home in Poland.
“We spoke for a couple of hours and I told him to be more aggressive, more offensive and slightly cocky,” Fibak said. “He will never be cocky, but to have that nerve. Maybe that was what he was lacking and now he is a bit tougher. Not all the way, but that helps a lot.”
Fibak did not mean that in a negative way. Hurkacz is known for always smiling regardless of the situation, and the Polish legend loves that about him. But he noticed the rising star was “slightly shy, slightly not so sure of himself”.
“He didn’t have the tough side. He didn’t have what McEnroe and Connors succeeded with. He was almost too nice of a guy over the past two, three years and I think he didn’t have that killer instinct,” Fibak said. “Of course he’s been winning, he beat many good players. But I thought his potential is higher, that he has more potential to win tournaments and not only to be in the quarter-finals.”
The former singles World No. 10 and doubles World No. 2 believes Hurkacz is one of the most talented players on the ATP Tour. His career-high FedEx ATP Ranking is World No. 28, and he is projected to crack the Top 20 with a victory against Jannik Sinner in Sunday’s final.
“He should be in the Top 10 if not the Top 5, and now he’s proving it,” Fibak said. “He’s an all-around player, he doesn’t have any weaknesses. A lot of players these days don’t know how to react at the net and he’s a great net player.”
Recently, Fibak has started thinking of another comparison for Hurkacz besides Murray: former World No. 4 Miloslav Mecir, who is affectionately known as the “Big Cat”.
“He was so subtle, moved so well, he had great hands and he would hit flat shots always and now the speed everybody is playing faster, but he was playing in Hubert’s way,” Fibak said. “It was tennis that was full of imagination, innovation, very precise. We all admired it.”
That is a lofty comparison for Hurkacz. Mecir won the singles gold medal at the 1988 Olympics and reached two Grand Slam singles finals. But the Pole is making steady progress under the tutelage of Craig Boynton, for whom Fibak has much praise.
“He has done a wonderful job with Hubert in terms of his composure, that he is so patient. They never rushed,” Fibak explained. “Obviously he did have a lot of success. Considering his talent and the shots he has and the way he moves, he could have achieved some more success a bit faster.
“It has to be recognised that Craig was always so patient, tolerant and forgiving in a way and always stood by Hubert in the good moments and disappointing moments and now it’s all glory, they can celebrate being in the final.”
Hurkacz can take it one step further on Sunday when he plays for the biggest trophy of his career. But to Fibak, this is just the beginning, and he is proud to have Hurkacz represent Poland.
“My dream is he will become Top 5 and possibly even higher, Top 3, maybe a leader, and he will stay the way he is [in terms of his personality]. That’s what I would like,” Hurkacz said. “Some people proved it [is possible], like Federer, Raonic is a gentleman, he always loses the same way he wins. He’s playing another gentleman, Sinner, tomorrow. They are two young people who are excellent players for their sport and their followers the way they behave on the court and off the court.”