Borna Coric capped a fairytale week as he stunned Stefanos Tsitsipas to lift the Cincinnati title and become the lowest ranked Masters 1000 champion in history.
The Croatian, who arrived in Ohio sitting at 152 on the ATP ladder and on a protected ranking, followed up his stunning triumphs over Rafael Nadal, Roberto Bautista Agut, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Britain’s Cameron Norrie by defeating the No.4 seed 7-6(0) 6-2 in one hour and 57 minutes.
It is Coric’s third ATP title and his maiden one at this level having lost his only previous Masters final to Novak Djokovic in Shanghai back in 2018. It also sees the former world No.12 become only the fourth man from Croatia to be crowned a Masters 1000 champion as his comeback from a long-term injury gathers major momentum.
Asked how he achieved the historic feat, Coric told Amazon Prime: “I’m not sure to be honest. Like I said many times this week, I didn’t come into this with much confidence. I was not playing my best tennis and I was struggling. I just went match by match and that’s how I did it.”
Coric managed just nine matches in 2021 as a result of surgery on his right shoulder and this season had been largely underwhelming until he downed 22-time Grand Slam champion, Nadal at the start of this week.
Croatia’s new No.2 admitted the second round win over the Spaniard was the catalyst, but suggested staying grounded was the key to what followed. He added: “It has happened to me before where I’ve beaten big players and then lost the next day. So, I was very calm and focused. I knew it wasn’t the end of the tournament and wanted to stay calm and focused and I think that’s what I did.”
The 25-year-old continued to roll back the years as he surged through the rounds, but it was Tsitsipas who made the stronger start in the final, dictating and dominating the rallies with some composed but hard-hitting forehands. The No.4 seed looked in complete control as he clinched an instant break, dropping just two points as he romped into a 3-0 lead.
Coric was firmly on the back foot but managed to weather the storm before breaking back on his third opportunity in Game 7 as he ruthlessly exposed the Greek’s serve and volley tactics.
The Croatian, who will rise to No.29 in the world on the back of his run in Cincinnati, then survived three break points to dig out a lengthy hold and tie the set at 4-4.
There was a feisty atmosphere to the contest that only intensified as the first-set stakes were increased, with both players casting steely glares across the net as they battled into a tie-break. Tsitsipas opened with a double fault and fell apart from there as Coric roared through the breaker by a 7-0 scoreline to pinch the opening set in one hour and two minutes.
Coric continued to look the more focused and determined of the two players as he produced a dogged hold from 0-40 to earn the scoreboard advantage at the very start of Set 2.
The Croatian saw three break points saved in Game 4 but finally got his reward for his continued pressure on the return when Tsitsipas double faulted to hand him a 4-2 lead.
The Greek, who will now move up to fifth in the rankings, battled hard in the following game as he hit back from 40-0 down to test Coric’s nerve in a lengthy face-off at deuce. However, the underdog remained defiant and came through to consolidate before breaking again on his second match point to secure the biggest win of his career.