Using unorthodox tactics on the court, Hubert Hurkacz’s run continued Friday at the Terra Wortmann Open in Halle.
Fifth-seeded Hurkacz found something more in both tie-breaks as he edged out Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(2, 7-6(4) to reach his third ATP semi-final of the season. 500.
A game without a break in service and just one break point went the Pole’s way after an absorbing hour and 47 minutes, but Hurkacz later admitted that his inability to put a dent in the Canadian’s serve led him to try something different in returning games on OWL Arena.
“The turf is a tricky serve,” Hurkacz said after the game. “I had absolutely no chance on the return. In the middle of the second set, I was wrong all the time. I had another idea. I would watch the shot clock, and if the number was even, I would go left, and if the number was odd, I would go right. So that was my tactic for the return.
Hurkacz picked up six points in a row from 1/2 in the first-set tie-break to go ahead and similarly kept his composure in the second set to secure his maiden win over Auger -Aliassime in three attempts.
Hurkacz was relieved to win in a close encounter. 2021 semi-finalist Auger-Aliassime fired 38 winners to Hurkacz’s 23 and took 89% (41/46) of the points behind his first delivery, according to Infosys ATP Stats. Still, the Pole held on to fend off the break point and hold 4-3 in the opening set and found his sharpest tennis in both tie-breaks to triumph.
“Probably nothing,” replied the Pole when asked what he had done better than his opponent of the day. “Felix was playing really well, he had more chances in the first set. I felt confident on my serve. Maybe I wasn’t serving my best, but I was holding and obviously with his powerful serve I didn’t I had no chance on the return, I was just trying to get to the tie-break.
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The fifth seed will next face wildcard Nick Kyrgios in a blockbuster semi-final at the ATP 500 event. Hurkacz and Kyrgios are chasing their first title of 2022 and their first career title on grass in the northwestern Germany. Hurkacz is expecting another tough day in the return against the big-serving Aussie.
“Obviously he’s such a great player,” Hurkacz said when asked about his next opponent. “He’s got amazing hands and great serve so it’s going to be super tough. I just need to hold my serve hopefully and maybe try for a chance or two.