© NOVENTI OPEN_KET

Defending NOVENTI OPEN champion Borna Coric saves the two break points he faces to reach the second round in Halle.

Coric Beats Munar To Start Halle Title Defence

Goffin crushes Pella

Borna Coric made a good start to his NOVENTI OPEN title defence on Tuesday, defeating 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Jaume Munar 7-6(2), 6-3 to reach the second round.

“Overall it was a solid match,” Coric said. “In the important points I was playing very well.”

One year ago, Coric made a stunning run at this ATP 500 tournament, defeating then-World No. 3 Alexander Zverev in the first round and nine-time champion Roger Federer in the final. The 22-year-old is trying to win an ATP Tour title for the third consecutive year.

The turning point of the match came when Coric faced two consecutive break points at 3-4 in the second set. If Munar had converted those chances, he would have served for a one-set lead. But Coric carved a forehand drop shot and then hit a big kicking first serve out wide to get back to deuce, and he never looked back from there.

"The first set was not great in my opinion. I did not return very well and I was a little bit lucky on the two break points that I saved at 4-3 at 15/40. That was the most important part of the match," Coric said. "When I saved those, I started to play a little bit better and I also got the momentum back."

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Those were the only break points Munar earned in the match. On the other hand, Coric took full advantage of the only break point he earned, breaking for 3-1 in the second set with a big backhand down the line that forced an error. The World No. 14 triumphed after one hour and 25 minutes when Munar couldn’t put a forehand return in play.

Coric will play Portuguese No. 1 Joao Sousa, who beat Hubert Hurkacz on Monday, in the second round. It will be their first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.

"I’m entering [the grass-court season] for sure with a little bit more confidence. The expectations are also a bit higher, which sometimes is not good, obviously. In ’s-Hertogenbosch I played a solid tournament, I would say. I was a little bit lucky again. Sometimes I played good, sometimes not good. So it was a good tournament," Coric said. "I needed a little bit of the extra matches to come here just a little bit more relaxed."

Matteo Berrettini, last week's MercedesCup titlist, dismissed sixth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-4. Berrettini, who can potentially crack the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings for the first time this week, will play fellow Italian Andreas Seppi in the second round. Seppi defeated qualifier Mats Moraing 6-4, 7-6(4).

Guido Pella had a tremendous clay-court season, tying for the ATP Tour-lead on the surface with 21 wins. But David Goffin wasted no time beating him on the Halle grass, as the Belgian ousted the eighth seed 6-1, 6-1 in just 50 minutes. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up will next face Moldovan Radu Albot, who advanced on Monday.

Qualifier Sergiy Stakhovsky battled past #NextGenATP German Rudolf Molleker 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-2 in two hours and 19 minutes after saving one match point in the second-set tie-break. Stakhovsky will try to reach his first tour-level quarter-final since Marseille when he plays Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Did You Know?
Entering Halle last year, Coric had just two wins in nine tour-level matches on grass. The Croat now holds a 10-9 record on the surface.

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