Resurgent Coric Charges Into Third Masters 1000 SF
Two days after a statement win against Rafael Nadal, Borna Coric showcased his staying power on Friday at the Western & Southern Open by reaching his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final since 2018. The Croatian, who returned to the ATP Tour in March after shoulder surgery, earned a one-sided 6-4, 6-4 win against Felix Auger-Aliassime to continue his best week of the season.
The World No. 152 is the second-lowest-ranked Cincinnati semi-finalist since the start of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in 1973, and the third-lowest-ranked ATP Masters 1000 semi-finalist since the start of the prestigious series in 1990. But he wont be setting records like that much longer — he has skyrocketed 86 places to No. 66 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings with his run this week and could rise as high as No. 29 with his first Masters 1000 title.
Asked how he has found such a high level after his first-round loss to countryman Marin Cilic in Montreal, the Croatian credited a hard week of practice after his early exit in Canada.
"Honestly I'm not sure, because last week I was playing really bad," he said post-match. "I was training really hard from last week. I lost on Monday and I decided to train a lot. I was spending many hours on the court, so I think that was the key, to be honest. I was playing many sets and I was trying to find my game."
Coric's dominant quarter-final win was built on a near-perfect performance on first serve. The Croatian won 31 of 32 points (97 per cent) behind his first delivery and did not face a break point in the one-hour, 40-minute contest. He was never pushed as far as deuce on serve, his easy holds freeing him up to swing out on return.
"I just came [to Cincinnati] and I just started to serve very good," he said of his strong performance this week. "I don't want to say too good because then tomorrow I'm not going to serve good, so I'm going to just say it was very solid. I was serving a lot last week. I took that risk with my shoulder. I can never know how much I can serve but I just took the risk and I was practising really hard."
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With powerful ground strokes consistently finding the corners, Coric created nine break chances across five return games, converting in the third game of the opening set and the seventh of the second. Auger-Aliassime had a brief opening on return at 30/30 after he battled through a 12-minute service hold to lead 3-2, but Coric dialled back in to avoid a momentum shift.
The Canadian saved two match points in a comeback win against Jannik Sinner on Thursday, but he could not repeat those heroics as Coric raced through two love holds to close out the match. The 25-year-old roared towards his team after grinding out one of the longest points of the match on his first match point, finishing as a deserved winner.
While he spent much of the match on the front foot, Coric also excelled in defence. According to the INSIGHTS: Steal metric, the Croatian won 41 per cent (17/41) of points from defence, well above the Tour average of 34 per cent.
With wins against Nadal and Auger-Aliassime, Coric has defeated two Top 10 players in a single tournament for the third time in his career. He will next face either Carlos Alcaraz or Cameron Norrie in Saturday's semi-finals.
Auger-Aliassime, despite the defeat, boosted his chances this week for a debut at the Nitto ATP Finals by moving up one spot to sixth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin with his second straight Masters 1000 quarter-final run.