By Sigurd Neubauer
Hubert Hurkacz, 26, secured his second 1000 Masters title at the 2023 Rolex Shanghai Masters by defeating Andrey Rublev, 25, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(8) in the final. Hurkacz’s first 1000 Masters title was at the 2021 Miami Open.
“Hurkacz doesn’t have any weaknesses in his game,” says President Vesa Ponkka of the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC), adding that by the end of the year, the Pole – if he can keep up his momentum – is expected to inch closer to becoming a top-10 ranked player. “Hurkacz has a fundamentally good game – and he continues to produce good results – but he lacks consistency,” Ponkka explains. The JTCC President is also one of America’s preeminent coaches.
This week, the Pole is playing in the Kinoshita Group Japan Open, which takes place in Tokyo.
“Hurkacz possesses all of the skills required to win big tournaments but what he has been missing is the necessary mental consistency to win.”
But what surprised the JTCC President at the Shanghai Masters was that Carlos Alcaraz, 20, lost to Grigor Dimitrov, 32. Daniil Medvedev, 27, who defeated Alcaraz during a hard-earned victory at the 2023 US Open, lost to American Sebastian Korda, 23.Alcaraz is ranked No. 2 and Medvedev No. 3.
Ben Shelton, 21, brings excitement to the U.S. tennis
Ponkka attributes their losses to mental and physical fatigue from the US Open. “Alcaraz and Medvedev are mentally tired after the Grand Slam,” he says, but points out that the two are expected to play better once they return to Europe for the upcoming ATP tournaments.
They are: the BNP Paribas Nordic Open in Stockholm, Sweden (October 14-23); the European Open in Antwerp, Belgium (October 15-22); Erste Bank Open in Vienna, Austria (October 23-30); Swiss Indoors Basel in Basel, Switzerland (October 23-30); Rolex Paris Masters in Paris, France (October 30-November 6); Moselle Open in Metz, France (November 5-12); and Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, Italy (November 18-20).
At the Asian tournaments, Ponkka explains, “there tend to be many ‘hits and misses’ because of the extensive traveling required from Europe and the United States, which in turn produces some inconsistencies among the top players.” What this means in practice, he points out, is that some top players either underperform and/or lower ranked players generate surprise outcomes. “But everything tends to turn back to ‘normal’ once they return to Europe for the end of the tour.”
Adds the JTCC President: “I have a feeling that Alcaraz and Medvedev will be playing better in Europe within the next couple of weeks where they both will finish strong. They have been on an ‘emotional hangover’ ever since the US Open last month.”
What also surprised Ponkka at the Shanghai Masters was how the top American players – Taylor Fritz, 25, Frances Tiafoe, 25, and Tommy Paul, 26 – struggled. Fritz is ranked No. 10; Paul No. 12; and Tiafoe No. 14.
Another upset in Shanghai was Ben Shelton’s, 21, victory over Jannik Sinner, 22. Sinner is ranked as No. 4 whereas Shelton is No. 19. Shelton has had a great year as he defeated Tiafoe in an all-American match at the US Open.
“If Fritz, Paul, or Tiafoe won’t come back, Shelton may very well surpass them and become America’s top male player,” Ponkka says.
The Asian tournaments tend to produce many ‘hits and misses' because of the extensive traveling required from Europe and the United States, which in turn produces some inconsistencies among the top players: Ponkka