It’s hard to claim something was a long time coming when you’re talking about a 20-year-old on the ATP Tour. But as precocious as Borna Coric was as a teenager, most expected him to have won his first career title by now.
The Croat finally did it in Marrakech on Sunday.
Coric saved five match points in the second set on the way to a 5-7, 7-6 (3), 7-5 victory over No. 3 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany. At two hours, 38 minutes, it was the longest final on the ATP Tour so far this season.
“Bad luck. I was a little bit lucky to be honest, I just thought it was basically over,” Coric said during his trophy ceremony speech.
It probably should have been over. Coric was down a break in both the second and third sets. During the 5-6 game in the second set, when Coric saved all the match points, he missed at least four first serves by barely a hair and had to battle with his second delivery. He also was the victim of a pair of net cords that went Kohlschreiber’s way.
Still, he managed to hold in that game and roll in the tiebreak. Kohlschreiber didn’t do a lot wrong in failing to convert at least one of them, although he played a poor game in the final game of the match to get broken and give Coric the title.
Coric was a finalist in Marrakech a year ago; he also reached the final in Chennai to begin the 2016 season. “Borna, was a great fight today. You deserve (it). You have a great future. Keep going,” he said. “I also (will) keep going a little bit more in my older ages.”
Only Andy Murray, in his quarter-final in Dubai earlier this year, saved more match points on his way to victory. He saved seven; as it happens, those also came against Kohlschreiber.
The most experienced of the “Next-Gen”
Coric is still eligible for the ATP Tour’s new “Next-Gen” finals in Milan, Italy in November. But it feels as though he’s a veteran compared to some of the other “Next-Gen” players, including 19-year-old Alexander Zverev and 20-year-old Karen Khachanov. Coric is younger than Khachanov, who was outside the top 300 and mostly playing $15,000 ITF tournaments when Coric received the ATP’s “Star of Tomorrow” award in 2014.
The Croat’s ranking dropped 20 spots last Monday, to No. 79, when the points from last year’s Marrakech final dropped off. But he’ll more than make up that ground Monday; he should return to the top-50 in the rankings for the first time this season.