By Jane Voigt
March 16, 2018 — At the end of last year Borna Coric admitted he was disappointed in his career. Great expectations were laid on his shoulders as a teenager and had become a burden. However, the 21-year-old Croatian has brushed them aside so thoroughly that he’ll face Roger Federer in one semifinal at The BNP Paribas Open tomorrow, his first foray to a semifinal at a Masters 1000 tournament.
“He’ll have to raise his game again,” Chanda Rubin said on Tennis Channel, about the impending match against Federer who is 16-0 for the year, his best start since 2006.
In the fourth round he defeated fellow #NextGen star, Taylor Fritz. Although the Californian served for the match in the second set, Coric pushed through to win in three in blustery conditions. Then he pulled out a 3-set tussle against Kevin Anderson (No. 7) in their quarterfinal.
“Just the attitude that you don’t care how you play,” Coric said, when asked how he persevered. “[I knew] it’s not going to be nice. You just go out there.”
And against Anderson, “I went for my shots,” Coric said, Asapsports.com reported. “In 5-4, 30-0 for him, I went for a backhand down the line. I got through this match with a very good attitude. I stayed calm [although I] was up and down, set points, tiebreak.”
“He kept his wits about him against Anderson after a couple bad calls,” Robby Koenig said on Tennis Channel today. “I think it’s starting to fall in place.”
“It’s been a very positive last few months for me,” Coric said. Over the course of the tournament Coric has also defeated Donald Young (USA), Albert Ramos-Vinolas (No. 19), and Roberto Bautista Agut (No. 13).
Coric has had a reputation as a hot-head. It was probably about expectations as much as anything else. Then he changed up his entire support team.
“I was on the same place for last three years,” he began. “I was there between 40 and 50 [ranking]. I think I can be better than that. So, obviously I needed to change something. I can change myself, but I can’t fire myself. So I decided to change my whole team.”
Ivan Ljubicic is now Borna’s manager and “kind of mentor” said Coric. Richard Piatti and Kristijian Schneider were also hired. Piatti coached Ljubicic for years, one being 2010 when the Croatian won Indian Wells. Piatti also coached Milos Raonic. Schneider, also from Croatia, had coached Ana Konjuh until they parted ways after seven years.
“It’s been a very good last few months,” Coric said. “We had very good weeks of training.”
That feeling of finally moving ahead is one all young tennis players seek, especially talented ones and those who have been expected to rocket up the rankings. (Coric is currently ranked No. 49 and should move as high as No. 30 when rankings are published Monday.)
Results, though, are the concrete products of hard work and team changes. Since the beginning of the year, Coric has made the quarterfinals of Doha and Dubai. Additionally, he clinched the Davis Cup tie for Croatia in February, beating Canadian teen phenom Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. The win was Coric’s second singles victory for the weekend. It advanced Croatia to the quarterfinals.
“I thought that I [would] play well because I was practicing very well for the past few days,” he said, as reported by Daviscup.com. Over the weekend, Coric’s level of play rose steadily as he gained confidence. The same can be said about his tournament at Indian Wells.
Coric and Federer have met once, the match won by Roger. In order to beat the man seeking his sixth title at Indian Wells, he will have to not only raise his game but he’ll also have to maintain a steady and strong offense. That’s a big ask for Coric, whose game is driven by defense. To accelerate his learning by tomorrow might be too much to ask. However, Coric’s win over Kevin Anderson was the biggest in his young career. Who’s to say he can’t do it twice?