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Coric, Struff star in day of upsets

Coric, Struff star in day of upsets

Vinay Nayudu
In what turned out to be a day of big upsets, the second and third seeds, world No. 10 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic, were sent packing in the opening round of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2018 on a misty evening at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex on Tuesday.
First to fall was Busta, who arrived in Doha with a lot of promise. The 26-year-old's big hopes were made to go bust by young and unseeded Borna Coric of Croatia after a 2 hour, 41-minute battle on the centre court. The second match on the same court saw Berdych being handed a return ticket by World No. 53 Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany after a 2-hour-8-minute match. Berdych won the opening set, lost the second and was eventually beaten in the tie-break of the final as Struff prevailed 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(4).
Setting the tone to the story of the upsets was the former World No.1 Junior and currently World No. 48, Coric, who fought back after being a set down to beat Busta 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (8).
In what a rusty and nervy opener for both players, Coric showed patience and killer-instinct both as he used his powerful backhand game to eventually prevail in the 21-minute long tie-break saving two match points. The 21-year-old and six feet and one inch tall Coric has been making waves of late especially since his return from a right knee surgery in 2016.
Somewhat tired after the long match, he termed his win against Busta as big."This is a huge win, for sure. Especially, since it was the first match of the season. I normally don't start the season very well, so I'm very happy. I'll take that," said the young Croat.
Coric, who was named ATP's 'Star of Tomorrow' in 2014, won his first ATP World Tour title in 2017 saving five match points against German Phillip Kohlschreiber in Marrakech, in April. And he's begun this tournament in right earnest serving notice of his credentials.
He's also beaten former World No. 1s Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal twice each besides making the third round of the Grand Slams at Roland Garros (2015 & 16) and at the 2017 US Open. While he said his win against Busta was huge, the one against Murray remains the best till date."You cannot compare it over the win with Andy. He was World No. 1 and stuff like that. So you cannot compare that," said Coric.
Such was his keenness to excel that Coric won 27 out of 33 points and was pleased with that."That was my feeling as well. I was playing very good, to be honest. Luckily, I had played doubles yesterday. That might have somehow made it a little bit better because I had played many volleys in the doubles."
Coric is placed in the bottom half of the draw which seems relatively easier than the top half. But the Croatian faces a challenge in Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili (World No. 59), whom he plays next in the second round.
"I'm playing against a guy who beat me twice last year (at Cincinnati and Lyon). He's a tricky opponent to play. And I've also played very long match today, and it's also late now. So it's not going to be easy, for sure. So that's my main focus; that's my only focus, to be honest," said Coric on his road ahead in the Qatar Open.
Meanwhile, 8th seeded Feliciano Lopez of Spain survived a scare against compatriot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez being taken the distance. Feliciano won the three-set battle 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (3) and will now meet qualifier Mirza Basic of Bosnia, who beat Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer in straight sets.


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