Several players endured disappointing results on Wednesday in Melbourne at the 2022 Australian Open. Tommy Paul, Alexei Popyrin, and Albert Ramos-Vinolas lost matches they probably felt they should have won. Yet, those players went down swinging. Paul lost three close sets to Miomir Kecmanovic. Popyrin and Ramos-Vinolas lost in five sets. They didn’t play well, but they battled well. Their result was disappointing, but they fought tooth and nail. They gave it a full ride.
Hurbert didn’t play well in his loss to Adrian Mannarino, but he also didn’t compete well.
Mannarino is a good player. Losing to him is not completely unacceptable, though certainly cause for concern. Getting routined by him, however, is alarming.
This loss by Hurkacz — partly the fact that it happened, but mostly the fact that it was so lopsided — will raise questions about the Polish professional who turns 25 in February and continues to be far more volatile than he should be.
The same guy who won Miami last year and reached the Wimbledon semifinals is also the guy who was lost at sea in the clay season and just crashed out in Australia. There is way too much variance between the best and worst iterations of Hurkacz. This is a big red flashing sign of danger.
Quality players — elite players — manage to attain stability, not so much in terms of always making the quarterfinals or semifinals of tournaments, but in terms of managing their game so that their floor is reasonably high and the worst day at the office still gives them a chance to compete well against players such as Adrian Mannarino.
Getting blown out by Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal? That will happen to anyone. Getting torched by Mannarino in a minimally competitive match? That frankly shouldn’t happen.
It’s not the loss; it’s the lack of a battle.
Hubert Hurkacz continues to pinball all over the place as 2022 begins. By the end of the year, he and his coaches will need to make strides in this facet of professional competition. If not, one will need to ask if large-scale changes are necessary.