Borna Stuns Roger, Reaches Biggest Final Of Career
Borna Coric advanced to his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final on Saturday, upsetting top seed and defending champion Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4 to reach the championship match at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. The 21-year-old will face Novak Djokovic on Sunday as he pursues the biggest title of his career.
"It's absolutely there. If not the best [win], then it's in the Top 2, Top 3," Coric said. "It's really something special. Like I said when I was coming here [for] this tournament, actually, my neck was a little bit stiff and I was actually a little bit thinking of even pulling out of the tournament. I was not playing well. I was not feeling well. And I didn't really know how it's going to turn out... I just said to myself, 'Okay, I have nothing to lose.' I did probably hundred times more than what I expected."
This was just the Croatian’s second semi-final at this elite level. Earlier this year, Coric advanced to the last four at the BNP Paribas Open, where Federer put his run to an end in a three-set thriller. But the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier stunned the Swiss at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, where Federer has triumphed nine times, to lift his biggest trophy yet. With his one-hour, 14-minute victory against the 98-time tour-level champion in China, Coric knotted the pair's FedEx ATP Head2Head series at 2-2.
Only two players have won more matches than Coric at the Masters 1000 level this season: Alexander Zverev (22-7) and Djokovic (19-6). Coric is now 8-14 against opponents inside the Top 5 of the ATP Rankings, with four of those victories coming this year.
The Croatian came out of the gate firing in the Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena, standing in on the baseline and taking the action to Federer. Coric broke in the first game of the match and did not look back, winning 80 per cent of his service points en route to taking the opening set.
And while one might have expected Federer to assert himself early in the second set, Coric once again broke in the first game. Throughout the match, the 21-year-old relentlessly attacked neutral balls in baseline rallies, doing his best to force Federer to go for low-percentage shots. And when Federer did manage to gain control of rallies, his younger opponent played strong, neutralising defence to stay in points. Coric closed the match out with a clean forehand passing shot, turning around to show a wide smile to his camp.
"I thought he was better. I think he had more punch on the ball. He served better. I think that's it," said Federer, who did not earn a break point against Coric. "The rest, he had more chances than I had. I got off to a bad start in both sets. That combination is plenty here in Shanghai with [the] fast conditions."
Coric lost just nine points on his serve in the match. Not only did he land 78 per cent of his first serves, but the two-time ATP World Tour champion did well to protect his second serve, claiming 73 per cent of those points.
"It's one of the best matches I have ever played. I was just feeling through the ball," Coric said. "I think I served the best in my life, for sure. I was going for the angles. I was going for the body. Everything was going in. No, that's much above my standard level. I mean, my standard level nowadays is better than in the last year, that's for sure. But again, to say this is my normal level, no, it's not, for sure."
Coric will confront arguably the hottest player on the ATP World Tour in Djokovic on Sunday. Not only does the Serbian lead the pair's FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-0, without dropping a set, but Djokovic carries a 17-match winning streak into the final.
Federer’s loss sends him to 39-7 in 2018, a season during which he has captured three tour-level titles. The 37-year-old was previously 3-1 in Shanghai semi-finals, and he was trying to join Djokovic and former World No. 1 Andy Murray as the only players to earn three championships at the tournament.
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Coric, whose previous career-high ATP Ranking was No. 18, will climb to No. 13 on Monday, regardless of his result in the final against Djokovic.