In May of this year if Borna Coric was asked if he could envision himself holding the biggest title of his career, the Cincinnati Masters, he probably would have said he would just like to be playing tennis at a good level and gradually work his way back after a prolonged injury break.
In May this year he was ranked 278 a far cry from exactly twelve months before when he was in the top 30. Borna Coric is now riding a wave because he is back in the top 30 and he has won the biggest title of his career, his first ATP Masters 1000. In one hour 57 minutes he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(0), 6-2 coming back from a break down in the first set.
He struggled to comprehend his achievement following the time he spent away from tennis, and the look on his face when the last point was won, was a look of disbelief.
“No, no, no, I can’t believe it after all that happened (with the injuries),” Coric said. “I have no words, to be honest. It's just unbelievable feeling. Like I said many times, I just gonna enjoy this. I thought I could play well.
“I was training hard, and I knew I could play good tennis, but that I could play this level tennis, I was just not aware. I'm just super happy, obviously.
“I started to serve better (after being down a break), I started to play much, much better. I was fighting very hard and then in the second set I thought I played my best set of the whole year.”
He had Tsitsipas under a fair bit of pressure and in the sixth game of the second set. The Greek double faulted when he faced break point; that gave Coric a 4-2 lead. The next game was just as important as Coric kept his composure in a service game that was over ten minutes long and he faced break point. Had he dropped serve, Tsitsipas would have been back in the match, instead Coric went up 5-2 and broke Tsitsipas again for the championship.
“I’m looking for an answer,” Tsitsipas said. “The ability to understand that I could have done better. I guess I was too relaxed to lose. It cost me. He was obviously the opposite of what I was, very much involved. Sometimes it makes you not be that much present in the moment when you're too relaxed. It takes away that momentum that you are trying to capture.
“I think he was serving well. He was making me move a lot. But, yeah, I could have used my chances in the first set. I don't know why I didn't. I rushed a little bit. He had a few good returns, and it cost me because that first set could have been very life changing.”
Ranked 152 coming into the tournament, Coric has become the lowest ranked man to win Cincinnati and he is the lowest ranked winner of any Masters 1000. He is the fourth Croat to win a Masters 1000 and the second after Marin Cilic in 2016 to achieve that in Cincinnati.
It was Borna’s second final at this level, the last was in very familiar territory for us, it was at QiZhong Stadium at the 2018 Rolex Shanghai Masters.
The doubles title went to top seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury over Tim Puetz and Michael Venus 7-6, 7-6.