Updated1/6/2024 9:32:00 AM
Craig Boynton, the longtime coach of Hubert Hurkacz, is used to being around the stars of the ATP Tour on a regular basis. One of the perks of the United Cup is interacting with the best WTA players, too.
It just so happens that Hurkacz’s teammate is World No. 1 Iga Swiatek.
“For me, after I saw her play live last year for the first time courtside, I'll tell everyone, ‘If you have kids, if you love tennis, you owe it to yourself to go buy a ticket, get the best seat in the house, right by court level, pay the money and watch Iga play’,” Boynton said. “From that standpoint, it was eye-opening for me. It was another experience that I never would have had if it wasn't for this event, this type of event because you don't really ever get in the same tent if you will.
“But the Polish, they're a very, very tight, very tight community. And in tennis, they all bond together and they all root for each other unselfishly.”
Poland is one tie win from claiming its first United Cup title. The country has dominated the 2024 edition of the event, with Swiatek standing tall throughout.
Boynton has been impressed by a few things in particular watching Swiatek from the Poland Team Zone over the past two years.
“One, her athleticism. Two, her weight of shot off the ground. Her intensity and how she played every point really the same. The laser focus,” Boynton said. “She hit a couple of open-stance backhands and in the doubles, oh my goodness. It's not as effective on TV as it is live. I was always a fan of Iga's just because of the Polish connection. But after watching her play, anybody that will listen, I tell them you've got to go watch her live.”
Boynton explained that he and his charge have great respect for Swiatek and her team. One of the benefits of the United Cup for Team Hurkacz is witnessing up close Team Swiatek’s process.
“Last year with Iga, we knew obviously who Iga was. We weren't really close. But last year, we got to know their team, Iga's team. They're just great people, a lot of fun. And Iga and Hubi get along great,” Boynton said. “This year we kind of hit the ground running because of the familiarity of last year and whatnot. Once you're down here, it's great. It's a great event. And we're fortunate enough this year to keep winning matches.
“We're getting more and more prep. And that'll just lead us right into the week before [the Australian Open], we're going to do a practice week in Melbourne. So this is great. We're very fortunate to be able to compete in this event with the rankings that Iga and Hubi have.”
Hurkacz has played both editions of the United Cup and competed in two of the three ATP Cups. Boynton was not sure what to expect for the first ATP Cup, which began at the very end of 2019. But the season-opening teams event in Australia has become a staple of Hurkacz's calendar.
“With the Polish team, they're so close. So that team element with the guys was incredible, it was great,” Boynton said. “In both events, it's a great way to prep because we're down here relatively early, and you get matchplay. If you have a day where you stub your toe a little bit, and you don't get over the line, but your teammate picks you up, or you get it done in doubles, then two days later, you get a singles match. It's not like a regular tour event where once you lose, you're out 'til the next tournament.”
Hurkacz lost three of his first six sets at the tournament, defeating Thiago Seyboth Wild in three sets before falling to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in a decider. The Pole has not lost a set since, finding his form against Zhang Zhizhen and Adrian Mannarino.
The days off Poland had have allowed Boynton and Hurkacz to polish the World No. 9’s game on the practice court.
“It's a scenario where you've had a bunch of time off and now you're trying to create momentum, trying to create a flow. Everyone is starting from a stopping point,” Boynton said. “That's another reason why it's great for these off days, you can then kind of work on things to create momentum to remember your identity. And if you've added anything new, you can go over that so it's more familiar under a match situation.”