DUBAI:Borna Coric should not have even been on Centre Court. But Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber pulled out at the last minute; Coric got into the main draw as a lucky loser. Marcos Baghdatis was two points away from a decisive 5-1 lead in the third set against Coric in the second round; he failed. Then he failed to close out the match, retiring with cramps at 4-4 in the tie-break. So Coric was out there, in his bright neon yellow-and-pink top, beating the living daylights out of Andy Murray.
The Scot, hampered by his inability to come up with a plan, looked like the rookie as Coric romped to a 6-1, 6-3 win in an hour and 19 minutes in the quarters.
“This is life,” he said. “Sometimes you have some opportunities in the past which I didn’t take. I know I got a little bit lucky with coming in the main draw.”
It’s not the first time that Coric has upstaged a top-four player. He beat Rafael Nadal in Basel last year. And he’s beginning to feel like he belongs on the big stage.
“I’m still a little bit struggling with the best players when they are playing well,” said Coric. “Andy didn’t play his best tennis today, but it’s not easy. I always need to be 100 per cent.”
Coric and Australia’s Nick Kyrgios are the only two teenagers in the ATP top-100, a reflection of how physically demanding the game has become. And Coric got the highest compliment on Wednesday, when world No 1 Novak Djokovic, compared him to his younger self. “I practiced with him a lot in last two, three months. I try to help him because I see myself through him,” Djokovic said of the young Croat. “I’ve never felt that way when I practice with somebody as I felt with him. It’s like playing myself.”
At 18 he’s the youngest player in the top-100 and won the ATP’s newcomer of the year in 2014. Fellow Croats and Grand Slam champions Goran Ivanisevic and Marin Cilic have predicted big things for him.
“I was listening to Nole yesterday, and I think he said that when you have pressure and where you have expectation, that isn’t bad, because obviously you’re doing something well,” he said.