Borna Coric advanced to the biggest final of his career eliminating defending champion Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4 in the Shanghai semifinals.
“It’s one of the best matches I have ever played. I was just feeling through the ball,” Coric said. “I think I served the best in my life, for sure. I was going for the angles. I was going for the body. Everything was going in. No, that’s much above my standard level. I mean, my standard level nowadays is better than in the last year, that’s for sure. But again, to say this is my normal level, no, it’s not, for sure.”
The win put the 21-year-old Croat into his first Masters final, and negated a Federer-Novak Djokovic title match. It was also Coric’s second straight win over the Swiss after Halle.
“It’s absolutely there. If not the best, then it’s in the Top 2, Top 3,” Coric said of his win. “It’s really something special. Like I said when I was coming here this tournament, actually, my neck was a little bit stiff and I was actually a little bit thinking of even pulling out of the tournament. I was not playing well. I was not feeling well. And I didn’t really know how it’s going to turn out.
“I just said to myself, ‘Okay, I have nothing to lose.’ I did probably hundred times more than what I expected.”
Federer, who was seeking a third Shanghai title, hasn’t held up a tour trophy since Stuttgart in June.
“I thought he was better. I think he had more punch on the ball. He served better. I think that’s it,” said Federer. “The rest, he had more chances than I had. I got off to a bad start in both sets. That combination is plenty here in Shanghai with fast conditions.”
Earlier, 3-time champion Djokovic pounded a listless Alexander Zverev 6-2, 6-1 to return to the No. 2 ranking along with the Shanghai final.
“It’s important and I am grateful that I have this achievement. I’m proud of it,” said Djokovic of No. 2. “Obviously I worked hard for it, and my ultimate goal is to get to No. 1 by the end of the year. I’m in a good way.
“Being No. 2 after this tournament is also a great achievement, considering the first four or five months of the year and considering I had the surgery. Where I was about four months ago and where I am today is quite an extreme opposite. I’m just cherishing that achievement and every moment spent on the court.”
Djokovic, who was playing in his 1,000th career match, has now won 17 straight matches and 26 of his last 27, plus his last 24 sets. And he hasn’t dropped serve all week en route to his fourth Shanghai final.
Zverev had beaten Djokovic in Rome, but couldn’t find the range today, especially on his serve.
“I got to the semifinals here, which I’m very happy about… I have still got big tournaments ahead of me,” said Zverev. “I qualified for London, which is positive. There are still positive things. I have been in the semi-finals of a Masters once again. This is my fifth this year out of eight [semifinals], and there is one more still to come.”
Coric will have to consecutive beat Federer then Djokovic to claim his first Masters title. He’s 0-2 against the Serb. And Djokovic is a perfect 10-0 in finals in China.
“He’s one of the hardest-working guys on the tour,” said Djokovic of Coric. “He puts a lot of effort into practice. He’s one of the leaders of the new generation. He’s played some great tennis so far this week.”
The last eight Shanghai titles have gone to the Big 4. Coric will try to buck the trend tomorrow.
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