Tennis

Cincinnati | Coric shocks Tsitsipas for title

Borna Coric, world ranked 152 and playing the Cincinnati Masters under a Protected Ranking having only returned to the Tour last March after a year off for shoulder surgery, lifted the biggest title of his career when he defeated the world No.7, Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Western & Southern Open final.

I thought I could play well. I was training hard, and I knew I could play good tennis, but to play this level of tennis — I was just not aware.
I’m just super happy, obviously Borna Coric

The 25-year-old Croat dominated the match after a slow start, to dispatch the Greek title favourite 7-6(0) 6-2 in just over two hours and become the lowest ranked player to win a Masters title, replacing the efforts of Spaniard Roberto Carretero who won the Hamburg event in 1966 when ranked 148.

In addition Coric’s ranking will shoot up to No.29 and he will be seeded for next week’s US Open where, in 2020, he reached the quarter final.

“I have no words, to be honest. It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” the Cincinnati champion said. “I’m just gonna enjoy this.

“I thought I could play well. I was training hard, and I knew I could play good tennis, but to play this level of tennis — I was just not aware.

“I’m just super happy, obviously.”

Borna Coric celebrates his victory with a roar

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Coric lost his only previous final at this level, going down to Novak Djokovic in Shanghai four years ago, came back from 4-1 in the opening set to force the tie break which he then dominated claiming it to love.

By now full of confidence and with the momentum behind him, the Croat ran off with the second to pocket only the third title of his career.

“It was a very, very tough match,” Coric admitted. “At the beginning I wasn’t playing very well and he was pushing me very hard. But I started to serve better and play better, and I was fighting hard.”

He also revealed he had practiced a lot to get himself fit and regain his confidence which he showed by eliminating Lorenzo Musetti, Rafael Nadal, Roberto Bautista Agut, Felix Auger-Aliassime and yesterday (Saturday) British No.1 Cameron Norrie before topping the list with Tsitsipas for his third top-ten-victim of the week.

“I played five matches now in a row. So I need to rest for a couple of days. I need to recover and just get ready for the US Open.”

Reflecting on the final, Coric, who hit seven aces and saved three of four break points, continued: “I realised that I needed to be more aggressive. He’s an unbelievable player, and he’s not gonna miss on my solid balls.

“I said to myself, ‘I have nothing to lose. If I continue like this, I’m going to lose anyway, for sure.’

“He was also playing very, very well, putting the pressure on me.”

Ever since he turned pro in 2013 in the Davis Cup against Britain, Coric has shown an abundant amount of talent but has been hampered recently with a back injury and then the shoulder.

But it would seem he has turned the comer as he improves his record against Tsitsipas to 2 wins against one loss which was a retirement in the 2018 Rome Masters. His first victory was achieved at the 2020 US Open which he claimed after a very tight battle in a fifth set tiebreaker.

“You’ve kicked my arse the last couple of times,” Tsitsipas remembered during the trophy ceremony and then, reflecting on his current run, added: “You’ve proved yourself over and over again. It was an incredible comeback from injury. You are proving that you are up there with us.”

Meanwhile Tsitsipas continues his search for a title on outdoor hardcourts having now lost the six finals he has played on cement.

“I’m still looking for the answer myself. I don’t have a clear answer,” Tsitsipas commented. “He was obviously the opposite of what I was, very much involved. Sometimes it makes you not be that much present in the moment when you’re too relaxed.

“I think he was serving well. He was making me move a lot. I could have used my chances in the first set. I don’t know why I didn’t. I rushed a little bit.”

“It kind of sucks – I still hope to come back here and win it one day. I was definitely not choking — I just played robots every time in finals.”

Borna Coric and Stefanos Tsitsipas pose together with their respective trophies

Frey/TPN/Getty Images

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