Win Or Go Home: How Coric Beat Tsitsipas

WASHINGTON, September 6, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

No matter where in the world – and at all different hours – fans may have watched the US Open third-round match between Borna Coric and Stefanos Tsitsipas that began on Louis Armstrong Stadium Friday evening and carried into the wee hours of Saturday morning, there’s no doubting what they saw: One remarkable and dramatic tennis battle.

Coric pulled off one heck of a great escape. He avoiding six – count ’em six – match points and came from 1-5 down in the fourth set to send the match to a decider. Then, the 27th-seeded Croatian went on to beat the fourth-seeded Tsitsipas in a fifth-set tie-break and has reached the fourth round of the US Open.

The score line of Coric’s 6-7 (2), 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4) victory was remarkable in that it was his second straight match that went five sets and lasted more than four hours.

Coric received treatment on his right shoulder and neck after the conclusion of first set. Later, when he was down 1-5 in the fourth set, he broke Tsitsipas three straight times. With the victory, he moved to 6-4 in five-setters and Tsitsipas dropped to 1-3.

“I have to be honest and say that I was really lucky,” said a relieved Coric. “I made some unbelievable returns and I was a little bit lucky at the end.”

Coric hit 53 winners to overcome 50 unforced errors. He converted six of 13 break-point chances against Tsitsipas, who hit 59 winners and committed 43 unforced errors. Surprisingly, Tsitsipas outpointed Coric 177-173.

“In the third and fourth set, he was playing unbelievable tennis and I felt like I had no chance. In the fifth-set tie-break, I knew it was not going to be easy for him. So, I tried to just keep the ball in court and make him play as many balls as possible,” said Coric, who has been on court for more than 11 hours through his first three matches.

Afterward, Tsitsipas didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so he wrote on Twitter:

Later, Coric shared this tweet with his fans and followers:

Just what happened with the Zverev-Mannarino match?

Alexander Zverev and Adrian Mannarino were scheduled to play their third-round match on Louis Armstrong Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Friday. However, Mannarino, who was identified from a contact group of Benoit Paire’s, the French player who tested positive for COVID-19 on the eve of the start of the US Open and was withdrawn, was temporarily halted from playing Zverev. He’s one of seven players participating under extra restrictions.

Meanwhile, Zverev was spotted by television cameras reclined in his Arthur Ashe Stadium suite, shirtless, looking like a lounger enjoying a day at the beach, when he should have been on court playing.

“He was around Benoit Paire, so I guess the New York state called and said that he shouldn’t play,” Zverev said. “It was back and forth, back and forth. It was political. It was not us players — we were just sitting around.”

After a lengthy negotiation session between the USTA and the New York State Department of Health, Mannarino was allowed to play and the match started nearly three hours later than scheduled.

Mannarino lost to Zverev, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, in two hours and 52 minutes.

“I was actually ready to go on court, and the tour manager came to talk to me at this time,” said Mannarino after the match during a virtual press conference. “He explained to me the situation that State Department of Health took over the city, actually. The city allowed me to play with a new protocol on Sunday, and obviously the state took over this decision to say that I’ve been exposed to a positive case, obviously, so I should be quarantined in my room and not be able to go on the tennis court and play the match today.

“So, they told me they were trying to contact some guys to see if this decision could be changed. … They told me, ‘Okay, we’ve decided to push your match not before 5.’ [Zverev] agreed, which was nice.”

The American Grand Slam

This year’s US Open has shown there’s a deep pool of talent among American women. Currently, the U.S. has seven players ranked in the Top 50, led by World No. 4 Sofia Kenin, who won the Australian Open earlier this year. Plus, Coco Gauff is knocking on the door at No. 51.

A total of 11 American women reached the third round of singles in this US Open, the most since 1992 and most at a Grand Slam since 1994 Wimbledon.

After she won her third-round match on Friday, 28th seed Jennifer Brady said, “When you see one of your fellow countrywomen or countrymen doing well, you build off it. You push each other.”

The No. 41 Brady, who faces three-time major champion and 2016 US Open titlist Angelique Kerber on Sunday, is among four American women who reached the second week. She’s joined by Shelby Rogers, third seed Serena Williams, who defeated another American, 26th seed Sloane Stephens in a tough three-set match on Saturday afternoon in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and Kenin.

What they’re saying

“Some matches give you an injection and launch your career to higher things, others like that missed opportunity from Tsitsipas put the break on. Hope he gets over it because he is brilliant to watch. Kudos to Coric for his win.” Todd Woodbridge

What they’re writing

New York Times tennis correspondent Christopher Clarey, in “Demands of Best-of-5 Sets Gives U.S. Open a Pandemic Wrinkle,” writes that it’s an unprecedented US Open and an unprecedented challenge for the men: Playing best-of-five matches after a five-month break and a US Open-French Open double.

Pete Sampras: A book review

Tennis historian and author Steve Flink was asked during a Tennis Channel Live interview Saturday morning why he decided to write a biography about Hall of Famer Pete Sampras, Greatness Revisited. Sampras is always fondly remembered during the US Open. His one-time record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles has been surpassed by the Big Three of Roger Federer (20), Rafael Nadal (19) and Novak Djokovic (17).

“I felt that the time was right that he was being somewhat overlooked,” said Flink.

Evert-Navratilova: A great rivalry

What they’re sharing on social media

Vasek Pospisil / Alive and well and into R16

Michael Russell / Thank you for kickstarting tennis

Elina Svitolina / What’s everybody up to this weekend?