The 2017 clay-court Masters Series has begun as first-round matches were played in Monaco over Sunday and Monday. So far there haven’t been any major upsets with Novak Djokovic the big name on the Order of Play for Tuesday. Another player on that Order of Play is Borna Coric, a player who won his maiden tour title over the weekend.
Coric, 20 years old, was the survivor of the Marrakech draw in Morocco. The event was a 250-level tournament and, as such, it didn’t feature a deep cast of talent. However, Coric defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber in the final, Jiri Vesely in the semifinals, and the dangerous Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the quarterfinals. Grigor Dimitrov and Martin Klizan were also both in the draw although neither of them did any significant damage.
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The title for Coric certainly didn’t come without a major fight. He saved five match points in the championship before prevailing 5-7, 7-6, 7-5.
“I would say that’s my biggest comeback,” Coric said of beating Kohlschreiber. “I’ve never saved five match points. Especially in such an important match, I served very well in the big points. It’s an awesome feeling. I didn’t know what to expect when I came here and I wasn’t in the best shape. But I’ve been working very hard the past three or four months and now it’s paying off.”
Coric’s chances in Monte-Carlo certainly aren’t that great. He mentioned the “shape” he is in and, having won a long Sunday final, he’s unlikely to do well in Monaco on short rest. However, with more rest ahead of the events to come, Coric is a player to watch.
Steve Johnson won the other men’s title over the weekend, a result that came from Houston. He beat Jack Sock en route to the title, one that gives Johnson just the second of his career and first on clay. The line score in the final was also competitive as Johnson outlasted Brazilian clay-courter Thomaz Bellucci 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 with the final-set tiebreaker only won by the minimum.
“To win on U.S. soil,” Johnson said, “and win when you’re not feeling great is a testament to my willpower and competitiveness.”
Johnson isn’t in the Monte-Carlo draw, but the title will help him challenge for a new-career high ranking. At present, he is 25th, he looks more dangerous now than he ever has, and he could have some a special summer by his own standards.
A couple titles were also handed out on the women’s tour. One went to Francesca Schiavone as the former French Open champion, at the tail-end of her career, proved she still has what it takes on clay in winning Bogota. Meanwhile an event in Biel, Switzerland was won by a newbie in Marketa Vondrousova. The seventeen-year-old, as a proven titlist, now adds to the depth of Czech tennis and she will be interesting to watch as she works to break into the top 100. With a title before her 18th birthday, she could certainly be a potential prodigy.
But the big news in tennis is the start of the Monte-Carlo tournament. Djokovic and Murray have questionable form and what they bring to the table isn’t perfectly clear right now. They are the top-two seeds in the draw this week, with Rafael Nadal the tournament favorite. In women’s tennis, the return of Maria Sharapova is on the horizon. She’ll be in Stuttgart next week where maybe a showdown between her and Angelique Kerber could be brewing.