Hubert Hurkacz on 'special' Dubai event and sending Roger Federer into retirement

Hurkacz will now be in action at the ATP 500 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which gets under way on Monday


Rituraj Borkakoty

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World number eight Hubert Hurkacz. — Photo courtesy Jorge Ferrari/Dubai Duty Free
World number eight Hubert Hurkacz. — Photo courtesy Jorge Ferrari/Dubai Duty Free

Published: Sun 25 Feb 2024, 4:04 PM

Despite the Robert Lewandowski-fuelled football craze, tennis has gained a foothold in the heart of Poland’s sporting culture.

Tennis coaches in the central European country owe the sport’s growing popularity to four-time major winner and world number one Iga Swiatek, the first Polish player to win a Grand Slam singles title.

But Swiatek is not the only torch-bearer of tennis in her country.

World number eight Hubert Hurkacz, the big-serving giant, is also making quite a splash, becoming the highest-ranked Polish men’s singles player in history.

Hurkacz will now be in action at the ATP 500 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which gets under way on Monday.

During a free-wheeling chat with the Khaleej Times, Hurkacz opened up about playing a round of golf in Dubai with compatriot Adrian Meronk and why he has a bitter-sweet memory of beating Roger Federer in the 2021 Wimbledon quarterfinal.

Q. You played a round of golf in Dubai recently with your friend from Poland, Adrian Meronk who finished second to champion Rory McIlroy at the Dubai Desert Classic last month. How was the experience of playing golf with a top professional in Dubai?

It was fantastic, Adrian is such a great person, a great guy and he is fun to hang around with. Obviously, he is a professional golfer and his skills are insane. Also, the dedication and the hard work he puts in every single day, it’s really tremendous.

Q. Adrian is also a Dubai resident. Do you also plan to have a Dubai residence visa? A lot of top tennis players?

I am currently living in Monaco, I really love that place, I have a lot of friends there, and it’s really easy for me, but Dubai is also an amazing place. I really love coming here. Adrian lives here and he tells me it’s amazing to be able to practice here.

Q. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is very popular among players. The organisers really look after them well, they also have a great on-site hotel, making it so comfortable for the players, they can just walk into the stadium straight from their hotel and also into the practice courts. You play so many tournaments across the world. Do you think this is what makes this tournament truly unique?

That’s really fantastic, and as you mentioned, it’s really comfortable. You can just get out of bed and go practice, which makes it so easy. It definitely makes it a special place in the tennis calendar for the players.

Q. Your mother was a junior national tennis champion in Poland. But it was only after you saw Roger Federer for the first time, that you seriously thought of playing the sport professionally. His tennis had a big influence on your life. Then you beat him in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2021. Reaching that semifinal remains your greatest Grand Slam performance. But that match turned out to be Federer’s last as a tennis player. You sent your idol into retirement…

Well, Roger has always been my idol since I was growing up. Just watching him play was inspiring, and then I got to practice with him a couple of times. I played against him, which was pretty amazing. I wish he continued to play for a lot longer, but it was an honour to share the court with him a couple of times. And it was an honour to experience his tennis and his game.

Q. As Federer inspired you as a young player in the past, now you and your compatriot Iga Swiatek are inspiring a lot of young kids in Poland to play tennis…

Iga is such an amazing person and a tennis player. It’s remarkable what she has achieved in her career. She is still so young. We are hoping that our passion for tennis will inspire more and more young kids in Poland. I hope they will continue to enjoy this beautiful sport.

Q. Now we have seen young players like Jannik Sinner, and Carlos Alcaraz win Grand Slams. Does it give you more hope now?

I think so, definitely, Jannik did something really special this year at the Australian Open. I am happy for him. We are great friends. So, you know, every day, I wake up, I try to take my tennis to a good spot and hope one day I would also be able to hold a Grand Slam trophy in my hand.


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