Tennis: Hurkacz beats Duckworth and joins Ruud to complete ATP Finals field

Poland's Hubert Hurkacz returning the ball to Australia's James Duckworth in their ATP Paris Masters quarter-final on Nov 5, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS, AFP) - Poland's Hubert Hurkacz and Casper Ruud of Norway will make their debuts in the ATP Finals later this month after the duo sealed the final two spots in the season-ending tournament in Turin, Italy.

Hurkacz clinched the eighth and final spot when he defeated Australian James Duckworth 6-2, 6-7 (4-7), 7-5 in the quarter-finals of the ATP Masters 1000 event in Paris on Friday (Nov 5).

The 24-year-old has won three ATP titles in 2021 and is currently at a career-high ranking of 10.

"It feels incredible," said Hurkacz. "Obviously, going to Turin is a dream. Growing up as a kid, seeing all those top guys playing in the Finals, it's inspiring. Now being among them, it's very special because it's just eight spots there, so it's not that easy to get there."

The 22-year-old Ruud earlier become the first Norwegian to make the cut for the Finals, which is played by the top eight men's singles players and top eight doubles pairs and will be held from Nov 14 to 21.

Ruud won five of his six ATP Tour titles during a breakthrough 2021 and is tied with Germany's world No. 4 Alexander Zverev for the most tour-level trophies during the season.

"It's been an unbelievable year that will have the perfect end to the season," Ruud said in an ATP statement after confirming his Turin spot with a 6-2, 6-1 win over American Marcos Giron at the Paris Masters on Thursday.

"It's been a stressful couple of weeks and months, because it's been such a tight race. It's been fun at the same time (and) so exciting to watch as a tennis fan."

Ruud and Hurkacz joined world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Zverev, Andrey Rublev and Matteo Berrettini in qualifying for the event.

Hurkacz will be looking to go one better than his compatriot, 2012 finalist Jerzy Janowicz, in Paris.

He will have a tricky semi-final as he faces the winner of the contest between Djokovic and in-form big-serving American Taylor Fritz.

"It is crazy," said Hurkacz referring to his Masters qualification. "The match was so hard today, knowing that I had to win the match.

"That obviously upped the pressure a little on me too."

He had looked well in control as he eased through the first set 6-2.

However, 55th ranked Duckworth levelled the match with a commanding performance in the tie-break - wagging his fingers at the crowd after taking it 7-4.

Seventh-seeded Hurkacz put real pressure on Duckworth in his first service game of the second set before the Australian took it after eight minutes of to-ing and fro-ing.

Duckworth took Hurkacz to deuce at 5-5 before the Pole held his serve but it was the Australian who came under pressure in the next game, saving two match points.

Hurkacz, though, took the match at the third opportunity, the Wimbledon semi-finalist raising his arms and then punching the air in delight.

Djokovic is making his return to the ATP circuit, having taken a seven-week break when his dreams of a Grand Slam sweep were dashed by Medvedev in September's US Open final.

Medvedev, the Paris title holder, has hopes too of wresting the top spot from Djokovic by season's end. The 25-year-old Russian plays surprise packet Frenchman Hugo Gaston in their quarter-final later on Friday.

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