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Kyrgios, Coric Ready To Begin #NextGen Rivalry

Kyrgios won two junior meetings against Coric

The Next Generation will take centre stage Friday when Nick Kyrgios and Borna Coric go head-to-head in the Millennium Estoril Open quarter-finals. Kyrgios, who celebrated his 21st birthday Wednesday, and the 19-year-old Coric lead the 21-and-under pack at respectively No. 20 and No. 40 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

While this may be the first time they will face off in ATP World Tour action, it wasn’t too long ago that the Australian and Croatian competed against each other on the ITF Junior Circuit. Kyrgios, 18 months Coric’s senior, claimed their two singles meetings – in the 2012 Osaka semi-finals and the 2013 Roehampton quarter-finals – in straight sets.

“The only thing I remember was the surface they were on,” said Kyrgios, who went on to win the title at both tournaments. “I played him once on grass and I think the other time was on hard court. He’s improved a lot, we’ve both improved, and we’ve both gone different paths. He’s developed in different ways. He’s a great player, but last time I played him was on the grass and I was a lot more comfortable, I think, on that surface. Tomorrow’s going to be a great match either way.”

Kyrgios and Coric made their tour-level breakthroughs in 2014 when they finished as the two teenagers in the Top 100. That season, Kyrgios defeated then-World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the fourth round on his Wimbledon debut. A few months later, Coric also defeated then-No. 3 Nadal to reach his first ATP World Tour semi-final in Basel; the result propelled him into the Top 100 and made him the winner of the ATP Star of Tomorrow presented by Emirates award, seizing the distinction of youngest player in the year-end Top 100 from Kyrgios.

Coric continued his rise in 2015, reaching a career-high No. 33 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in July. He began 2016 by reaching his first ATP World Tour final at the Aircel Chennai Open (l. to Wawrinka), and followed with a runner-up effort at the Grand Prix Hassan II earlier this month (l. to Delbonis).

“He was always a guy that was really good on both wings,” said Kyrgios. “Solid serve, solid returning. He’s developed every aspect of his game. He moves well now. He doesn’t really miss. He plays similar, but he’s just sort of gotten a lot better in every aspect.”

Kyrgios could say the same thing for himself. Since defeating Nadal at Wimbledon, Kyrgios has gone on to record six more Top 10 wins (7-13), most notably against No. 2 Roger Federer last year in Madrid. This past February, he became the first member of the Next Generation to win a singles title, recording Top 10 victories over Richard Gasquet and Tomas Berdych before defeating Marin Cilic in the Open 13 Provence final. He broke into the Top 20 earlier this month after defeating Milos Raonic to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final in Miami.

“[Kyrgios] is the favourite so I have nothing to lose,” said Coric. “But I’ll never come into a match with the mindset that I can’t win. I’ll do my best but I’ll be there to win. It will be an enjoyable match for sure.”

Win or lose, Kyrgios anticipated the quarter-final clash to be the first of a bright new rivalry.  

“It’s important, but at the same time, I think we’re going to play a lot of times in the future as well so, to be honest, I don’t think it really matters,” said Kyrgios. “If he wins tomorrow, I’ll just say, 'Good luck and go get your first title,' and if I win, I’m going to come out the next day and just play again.”

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