WASHINGTON, December 13, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
Among the positive takeaways from Borna Coric’s magical 2018 season is the rivalry he developed with one of his childhood tennis idols, Roger Federer. They met three times during the year and, surprisingly, Coric won twice. On his right arm, the Zagreb native sports a tattoo that reads: “There is nothing worse in life than being ordinary.”
Indeed, and Coric is anything but ordinary. Throughout 2018, he proved he could compete with the best.
After losing a tough three-setter (5-7, 6-4, 6-4) to the 20-time Grand Slam champion last March at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, in Coric’s first Masters 1000 semifinal, the 21-year-old Croatian gained a bit of revenge later on at Halle, Germany. In an ATP 250 grass-court tune-up for Wimbledon, Coric beat Federer, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-2, denying the Swiss maestro of winning his 10th Gerry Weber Open singles title.
“It is the most unbelievable feeling, (to beat Federer),” Coric was quoted by ATP website as saying, after his victory against then-No. 1 Federer. “I looked up to him when I was younger, watching his matches back at home with my mum, my dad and my sister. Just playing him here today was a very special moment and beating him just makes it even bigger for me.”
Coric’s title win at Halle raised his ranking to a career-best No. 21 after starting the year ranked No. 48. His final meeting against Federer came near the end of the season, in the semifinal round of the Masters 1000 event in Shanghai. With confidence on his side, Coric gave one of his best performances of 2018 and beat Federer, 6-4, 6-4.
Afterward, Coric, now 22, said, “It’s absolutely there. If not the best (win), then it’s in the Top 2, Top 3. It’s really something special.”
Not one to hide his competitiveness – he’s a boxing enthusiast off the court – the right-handed Coric served nine aces, lost just six points on his first serve and did not face any break points against Federer, winning in just 74 minutes. “It’s one of the best matches I ever played. I was just feeling through the ball,” he 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.”
By the end of the season, Coric compiled a very respectable 40-20 win-loss record – a tremendous improvement over his 2017 campaign – and he lifted his ranking to a career-best No. 12, attained on November 5. His 40 victories represented a personal best as was reaching the fourth round of a Grand Slam, at the U.S. Open. Also, Coric contributed greatly to Croatia’s 3-1 Davis Cup Finals triumph over France by defeating Jeremy Chardy, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4, in the opening match of the tie. His win set the tempo for the rest of the weekend for the Croatians.
“I played a really great match from the beginning to the end,” Coric said after beating Chardy. “I was very aggressive, I was very calm and I didn’t lose my nerve in the second set. I had a few break points in the second but didn’t take them, but I stayed calm and that was the key I think. I served really well in the important moments.”
Looking back, Coric put together a solid Davis Cup season, winning five of the six rubbers he competed in. His come-from-behind, fifth rubber victory over Frances Tiafoe of the United States, 6-7 (0), 6-1, 6-7 (11), 6-1, 6-3, in the semifinal round at Zadar, advanced Croatia into the year-end championship tie against France.
Looking ahead to the start of the 2019 season, which is just a few weeks away, Coric is already hard at work. “I like the practice; I like all hard work,” he recently told the Australian Open website. “For me, it’s not a problem. Yes, I am a hard worker.”
After all, there is nothing worse in life than being ordinary.