Nick Kyrgios has found himself upstaged in a battle of the monster servers as Hubert Hurkacz ruined his hopes of reaching a first grass-court final in Halle.
Kyrgios, in such brilliant form all week at the German event that he fancied his maiden final on the green stuff was firmly on the cards, met his match in an almost inevitable tiebreak decider in Saturday’s semi-final, losing 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-4) to the Pole.
It was a grievous disappointment for the 27-year-old but there was definitely enough in Kyrgios’s big week to encourage him with Wimbledon just over a week away.
The Australian was quite brilliant behind his own serve, unbroken and having given up just two break points the whole game, but, ultimately, he was beaten at his own game as Hurkacz pounded down 27 aces, the most he’s ever bombed in any match.
So Kyrgios, who was even more prolific with 30 aces, couldn’t capitalise on his first-set domination when he was the more aggressive and ambitious of the pair.
Neither player was troubled on their own delivery until the ninth game of the opener when two brilliant forehand winners helped Kyrgios land what was to be the only break of the match to go 5-4 ahead.
He sealed the deal with two aces in the following game but from then on, never himself really threatened Hurkacz on serve as the Polish world No.12 began to grow in confidence.
With some inevitability, it all came down to one final tiebreak shoot-out, with Hurkacz earning the crucial mini-break with Kyrgios failing to deal with a floated deep service return.
“One or two shots was the difference,” Hurkacz conceded.
“Definitely super close. Nick played a really, really great match. He’s a great player, so it was definitely a super tough one.”
Kyrgios, on his debut at the German venue, was deprived of a chance of playing world No.1 Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final, after the Russian survived a set point in the first stanza before beating German hope Oscar Otte 7-6 (7-3) 6-3.
But though there was just one flashpoint with Kyrgios – he picked up a warning for ball abuse after he smashed one high, wide and out of the arena in a moment of frustration – this will be a week he can look back on with real satisfaction.
For the man who reckons that he’s a top-five player on grass courts really did indeed look like one for much of the week and he will go on to one final Wimbledon warm-up tournament in Mallorca next week, believing he’s on course for perhaps his best week at SW19.
One thing is for sure – nobody, as Hurkacz intimated, will want to meet this dangerous floater in the main draw of a slam in which he’s previously reached one quarter-final and the last 16 on two other occasions.