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Saturday, Sep 24, 2022

Meet Borna Coric, the Nadal fan, who spoiled his idol’s return from six-week injury layoff

The Croat now owns a 3-2 head-to-head record against 22-times Grand Slam Champion Rafael Nadal.

Borna Coric (CRO) reacts to a point against Rafael Nadal (ESP) during the Western & Southern Open. (USA TODAY)

Not many tennis players have a wood over Rafael Nadal, the winner of a men’s record 22 Grand Slam championships.

Meet Borna Coric, a childhood Nadal fan who now owns a 3-2 head-to-head record against the Spaniard.

On Wednesday night in the Western & Southern Open, Borna Coric spoiled Rafael Nadal’s return from a six-week layoff, beating the Spanish star 7-6 (9), 4-6, 6-3 in the second round of the Western & Southern Open.

Apart from Coric, there are only three tennis players who have a better head-to-head record against Rafael Nadal, a minimum of four matches. The players are Dominik Hrbaty, Nikolay Davydenko, and Novak Djokovic.

Nadal, who hadn’t played since July 6 after an abdominal tear forced him to withdraw from a semifinal match against Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon, showed no signs of the injury that mostly plagued his serve. He reached 121 mph with one serve and needed several awkward body movements to return some of Coric’s shots.

On the other hand, Borna Coric too is making a comeback from a shoulder injury.

“It was very very special,” Coric said. “I’ve been out the last two years injured. I didn’t play on the big stage.

“I was looking forward to playing this match. It was all kind of crazy I would say.”

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Coric had defeated Lorenzo Musetti 7-6(2), 6-3 in the opening round.

When Coric stunned his idol in Basel

In his first ATP 500 event in October, 2014, playing in the of Swiss Indoors Basel, the Croatian stood across the net from his idol, Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals. It was a dream for Coric just to face Nadal. The teen did much more than that, defeating the Spaniard 6-2, 7-6(4).

“It was a full stadium for our quarter-final. I remember I was just enjoying it. I was super happy. I was like a kid in a candy store,” Coric told ATPTour.com.

“It just felt good. I was in the moment, I was living my dream.”

Injury halted a promising career

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In 2014, Boran Coric was the youngest player in the Top 100 of the year-end ATP Rankings. The next year, he was the youngest player to make it into Top 50. He earned nine victories against Top 5 opponents and climbed to a career-high World No. 12.

But then came a setback, in May 2021, he underwent shoulder surgery and missed more than a year.

The Comeback

It took Coric longer than expected to return to the court, and this season he made his comeback in March at the BNP Paribas Open. The Croatian has tallied a 5-8 tour-level record and competed in four ATP Challenger Tour events, winning one in Italy.

The 25-year-old, who is now ranked 152, is eager to get his form back. Before the clash against Nadal, he said: “I will play without any pressure. I just get to enjoy it even more now because I didn’t have those kinds of matches and the competition in the past two years and I did miss that. I just get to enjoy it even more than when I was 17 or 18,” Coric said.

“Since I was out now playing Challengers and all that, I just get to enjoy it even more now.”

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It is not just the tennis Coric needs to worry about. “I’m going to need to think about my shoulder until the end of my career, so I didn’t stop thinking about it,” he admitted.

First published on: 18-08-2022 at 10:26:01 am
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