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Hubi Hurkacz Steered by His Coach Craig Boynton Work their way into Wimbledon Semis

By Alix Ramsay

Hubi Hurkacz is in the Wimbledon semi-finals. In all the reams of copy that has been filed – and, hopefully, read – that one rather important fact seems to have been forgotten.

The charming 24-year-old from Wroclaw (now living in Monte Carlo) who looks like a trainee bank manager, made the schoolboy error of beating Roger Federer to reach his first grand slam semi-final. Instead of finding himself splashed across the front and back pages of every newspaper, billed as the “next big thing” (and at 6ft 5ins, he is a very big thing), his name was buried in the fifth paragraph and mentioned only as the villain of the piece.

It was only to be expected, of course. The Centre Court had been opened up fully for the first time this year and it was packed. That was 14,979 people squashed into Roger’s house – and fully two of them were cheering for Hurkacz: his physio and his coach, Craig Boynton. It would be enough to frighten the living daylights out of anyone. But Hubi, for all his mild manner and fresh face, is not just anyone.

Boynton had warned him before the match that it would be a one-sided crowd but there is only so much a coach can say. With Hubi a set to the good, Roger got to work and broke at the start of the second. “It got really loud then,” Boynton said. “That’s when you could see him saying to himself, ‘oh, OK – this is what it’s going to be like.”

And Hubi accepted it and got back to battering his idol. As Boynton explained, his charge is a level-headed soul but, at the same time, he is like a 12-year-old kid in a candy store – he is loving every moment of being a pro player, no matter what.

Two years ago, when he reached the quarter-finals in Indian Wells (he lost to Federer), the gnarled old hacks of the press room were struck by his sunny outlook. He smiled when he won his first round match, he smiled when he beat Denis Shapovalov to reach the last eight, and he smiled when Federer sploshed him 6-4, 6-4. He was lapping up the experience and loving the process. He was ranked No.67 back then; he is the world No.18 now.

Even the experience of a rain delay was a good thing in Hubi’s book. While everyone else had booked their place in the quarter-finals on Monday, the Pole and Daniil Medvedev were still stuck in the fourth set out on the roofless No.2 Court. When the rain arrived, they left and had to come back on Tuesday to settle their differences. And because of the continuing rain, they were put on Centre Court and under the roof to do it. It was Hubi’s first time on Centre and the experience proved invaluable.

“I think it helped me a lot actually, feeling the atmosphere, feeling the court there,” he said. “Obviously playing against Roger here in Wimbledon is always special with the crowd cheering so much. So that I haven’t experienced yesterday, but playing on the court, feeling the court helped a lot.”

He will feel better still on his next trip to Centre Court. The way he handled himself in Federer match, the way he said all the right things in his halting English in the on-court interview, the way he heaped praise on the champion he had just felled – all of that earned him brownie points with the Centre Court faithful. He may have been the bloke who shot Bambi, but he did it beautifully. They appreciate that sort of thing around these parts.

Now Matteo Berrettini stands between him and a place in the final. This is an unlikely scenario given that he came to SW19 riding the crest of a six-match losing streak but the Pole is making the most of it. They have met once before – in Miami two years ago – and Hubi won.

But Big Berrettini had not reached a grand slam semi-final at that stage and as he prepares for the Friday showdown, he has the experience of playing in the US Open semis two years ago. He knows what it feels like to be involved in the business end of a major championship.

Then again, Hubi, inexperienced as he is at all this giant-killing, headline grabbing stuff, seems to be doing just fine as he is. And remember: Hubert Hurkacz is in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

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