Teenager BornaCoric just became Andy Murray’s nightmare, after eliminating the Scot in the quarterfinals in Dubai in straight sets in what can easily be considered his worst defeat. Next up for the Croat will be Roger Federer and the question for the best tennis prediction will be how far can the youngster really go? If Coric reaches the level he showed in shocking Murray, Federer is in for a rough afternoon. Coric, who already had Rafael Nadal’s scalp on his CV, inflicted one of the most embarrassing defeats of Murray’s career, a match the Scot was thankful was over in two reasonably quick sets.
Coric, ranked 84 in the world (the youngest in the ATP top 100), said after a good run in Chennai in January: “When I’m at my best, I am more like Djokovic, game-wise; when I’m not, I’m more like Murray.” If Murray drew on that sideways barb for inspiration, it did not arrive on Thursday.After winning an astonishing 41-shot rally in the first game, the world No3 struggled to stay even close to a player positively brimming with energy and invention. They both love boxing and this was Muhammad Ali beating Sonny Liston. It was tough to watch, unless you were part of Coric’s delirious entourage.
In that oft-quoted Chennai interview, Coric added: “I think my game is quite similar to Nole’s. I move well, I don’t miss many balls, I’m a fighter and my backhand is my best shot. Currently, I’m the best of my generation.” He rowed back on that last assertion, slightly shamefaced, but the shot had been fired. Coric was a player to watch, on court and in press conferences.Djokovic, who will be waiting for Coric in the final if he beats Tomas Berdych in the other semi-final on Friday, said after watching the teenager’s win over AndreyGolubev this week: “He’s definitely one of the most talented players in the world right now.”There was no “young” inserted there. Djokovic recognises Coric’s pedigree and right to mix in the best company, adding: “Since, beating Nadal in the quarter-finals in Basel last November, you can feel he has matured. He feels comfortable playing with top players. I practised with him a lot in the last two, three months. I try to help him because I see, in a way, myself through him. I’ve never felt that way when I practise with somebody as I felt with him. It’s like playing myself.”
There are few more engaging spectacles in any sport than the flowering of young talent, unless you are on the wrong end of their genius. It is unlikely but not inconceivable that Coric will do to the 17-slam Swiss what he did to Murray, and what he did to an underdone Nadal. He might even bring his precious talent to the boil in the final against his mentor Djokovic if he gets there that is. What an achievement that would be: the Big Four beaten in the space of three months.In all probability Federer will stop Coric’s run. But there can be no denying his class. He hits the ball so cleanly and so cleverly, with such certainty and power, that there is little chance he will fade from view. He has balance, vision, strength and confidence bordering on cockiness.With the exception of a break-back midway through the second set, Murray was rarely on level terms. He hit 55 unforced errors, a clear sign of nerves, and in five of his opponent’s service games he failed to win a single point. Those are almost unbelievable numbers for one of the best returners in the modern game.
The best tennis Tipsters predict that within a year or so Coric should be at the business end of tournaments, of that there is little doubt but how far will he go? This will depend on the one quality that has separated Nadal, Federer, Murray and Djokovic from the rest, dedication.