With Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal ruling over men’s tennis for nearly a decade, fans have been wondering when the next group of talented young players will step up and begin challenging for Grand Slam titles.
Those who clamored to Court 8 on Tuesday got a glimpse at a possible future Grand Slam winner in 17-year-old Borna Coric, the youngest player competing in the men’s singles draw this year. The Croatian came through qualifying and put on a clinic in his first-round match against No. 29 seed Lukas Rosol of Czech Republic, who won the ATP event last week in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Striking his first serves with authority and using that shot to set up his forehand, Coric showed poise beyond his years and a game beyond his ranking (currently No. 204, and rising) in dismantling Rosol, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. The win also marked the teenager’s first main draw victory at a Grand Slam.
“I came here was only thinking about getting in the main draw. I said it would be perfect if I could achieve that,” said Coric. “Now actually beating a guy who’s Top 30 is just unbelievable. I’ve defended all my points until the end of the year, so my schedule is going to change and everything is going to be a little bit easier now.”
In a battle of youth versus experience, Coric plays his second-round match today against 34-year-old Victor Estrella Burgos of Dominican Republic, who on Tuesday became the first player from his country ever to win a round at a Grand Slam, defeating Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands.
Coric’s talent has been on full display for the last year. He won the boys’ singles title at last year’s US Open and has made a seamless transition into the pros, winning four ITF Pro Circuit titles in the last 12 months. Last month, he made a triumphant return home by reaching his first ATP quarterfinal in the coastal city of Umag.
“The pro tour is maybe tougher in the sense that all the guys are not going to just give you the match if you lose the first set," he said. "But I also saw that the guys are not that much better than the juniors. Of course, they are better. But if you get used to it, you can adapt quite quickly.”
Coric has also represented his country in Davis Cup play, losing against Andy Murray last fall but then winning a five-set match against Jerzy Janowicz of Poland to help his team clinch that tie. Coric has continued to receive mentoring from some of the best current and former players in Croatian tennis, including No. 14 seed Marin Cilic and former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic.
“I’ve spoken to all of them,” he said. “I didn’t know them much before, but I’m so thankful to them because they’ve helped me a lot.”
Based on his age, Coric has already received comparisons to Australian Nick Kyrgios, the 18-year-old who took out Rafael Nadal this year in the fourth round of Wimbledon and Mikhail Youzhny in the first round here. But the Croatian was quick to brush those off and said he was content to travel his own path.
“I don’t look at the other players so much,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable job for him, but it doesn’t mean anything for me. It showed that the younger players can play with the Top 10 or Top 20, but I’m really just looking at myself.”
More eyes will certainly be on Coric as curious fans become interested in his progress throughout the tournament, but he said it’s an experience that he welcomes.
“I don’t have any pressure on me this tournament,” he said. “If everyone is looking at me, then I’m going to prove to everyone that I’m a good player.”