Hubert Hurkacz was not even supposed to be participating in the ATP Finals. He was an alternate as he was ranked No. 9 in the Race to Turin. But after Stefanos Tsitsipas exited his match early on Tuesday, Hurkacz was thrust into play and had the chance to play Novak Djokovic on Thursday. Hurkacz did not beat Djokovic, but he did win a set against the ATP No. 1 and that is important.
The ATP Finals is a round-robin event with two groups of four players battling to get to the semifinal stage. To get to the semifinals, players need to finish in the top two of their group. In case of a tie, other factors, such as win-loss record in terms of sets and games come into play. A player that sweeps through their matches with relative ease gets to a good spot in their group, while other players do not.
Novak Djokovic’s issue is that while he did go 2-1 in the group stage, he never had an easy match. He went to three sets in each of his three matches in the round-robin stage. Because of that, he has a chance to be knocked out of the semifinals if Holger Rune defeats Jannik Sinner later on Thursday.
Novak Djokovic beats Hubert Hurkacz at ATP Finals on Thursday
Sinner has won both of his matches so far at the ATP Finals, including defeating Novak Djokovic in three sets on Tuesday. Rune got his one victory when Tsitsipas retired after three games in their match. Sinner will make the semifinals win or lose to Rune, but if Rune beats Sinner, Rune will move on to the semifinals while Djokovic will miss out.
Funny how Tsitsipas leaving after three games against Rune potentially affected the semifinals, right? Plus, while Jannik Sinner probably wants to win on Thursday because he is a professional tennis player and playing in his home country with the crowd firmly behind him, if Sinner wants to make sure he doesn’t have to play Novak Djokovic again in the ATP Finals all Sinner has to do is lose to Rune.
As far as the Djokovic and Hurkacz match, Djokovic basically broke himself in the second set – he double-faulted on break point – and that led to Hurkacz winning the set. Had Djokovic beaten Hurkacz in two sets, Djokovic would have guaranteed himself a spot in the ATP Finals. Instead, he has to live with a 7-6(1) 4-6 6-1 victory.