Zhizhen Zhang of China beat Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 3-6 6-4 7-6(4) in the first round of the Japan Open in Tokyo on Wednesday, October 18. Hurkacz, who won the Shanghai Masters last weekend, thus suffered a shock defeat at the hands of the 27-year-old Chinese.
Zhang will take on Aslan Karatsev of Russia in the second round on Thursday, October 19. The powerful Russian is a formidable player, but Zhang will fancy his chances of going deep into the tournament.
On that note, let us take a look at two things that stood out in the match between Zhang and Hurkacz:
#1 Hurkacz used his forehand and drop shots well in the first set
Hurkacz is known to possess a strong serve, but used his subtle touch well in the first set to get a break of serve and thereby won the first set. The tall Pole used his drop shots well to drag the Chinese into the net repeatedly.
He also kept hitting his forehand with a lot of power and hit eight winners off that wing in the first set itself. At the end of the set, Hurkacz looked well and truly on top and Zhang needed a special effort to get back into the match.
#2 Zhang’s groundstrokes and volleying won him the match
Zhang started the second set badly, too, as Hurkacz broke him early to take a 3-1 lead. However, the Chinese then broke back to level the score and got another break to win the second set. He then matched Hurkacz stroke for stroke in the third set and took it into a tie-break.
Zhang raced to a 4-0 lead in the tie-break, but Hurkacz then fought back to reduce the deficit to 4-5. However, the Chinese then won the next two points to finish the match off, as Hurkacz tried to put too much power behind an inside-out forehand and hit it wide.
Zhang exhibited some clean striking in the last two sets, with his down-the-line backhand being particularly good. The Chinese also rushed to the net quite frequently to finish points with volleys.
Zhang, quite unexpectedly, out-aced Hurkacz with 10 aces in the match, while the latter was able to hit only five. The Pole put in a rather disappointing performance as far as his serve was concerned on the day, as he was able to win only 38% of the points on his second serve in the match. Zhang, meanwhile, won 57% of the points on his second serve.