19-year-old Borna Coric has been an absolute revelation over the past year. The teenager, who is the youngest player in the ATP top 50, has drawn serious comparisons to World No.1 Novak Djokovic in his short time on the ATP circuit so far, and the Serb has himself said he thinks Coric is a definitive talent.
Ahead of the Chennai Open, the teen said it had been “a dream” to make the finals against Stan Wawrinka, and after his three-set victory over Britain’s Aljaz Bedene, Coric has in fact fulfilled that dream.
World No. 4 Wawrinka won the second Grand Slam of his career at the 2015 French Open, in the process denying Novak Djokovic an opportunity for a Calendar Slam.
His young rival, meanwhile, beat a top-10 player for the second time in his career last year, and in strong fashion. After roundly beating Rafael Nadal in 2014 in straight sets, Coric dispatched World No. 2 Andy Murray in ignominous fashion, with the Scot going down 1-6, 3-6.
Coric and Wawrinka have met each other twice before on the professional circuit, both times in 2015. Incidentally, their first meeting was also at the Aircel Chennai Open – at the Round of 16 last year, with Wawrinka making extremely quick work of the youngster as he won 6-1, 6-4.
At their next meeting, however, at the Cincinnati Masters – played on the same surface as the Chennai Open, Coric put up a spirited fight despite being drawn against a big opponent early in the tournament. The young Croat managed to scalp Wawrinka convincingly in the first set, winning it 6-3. Looking poised to potentially pull of a big upset, Coric even took the second set to a tiebreak, although it was the Swiss who would arrest his momentum to win the tiebreak and then the deciding set strongly to eventually win.
Coric and Wawrinka both have strong backhands – but considering the momentum Wawrinka has – having won the title the past two years in succession and looking to complete a hat-trick, it is likely he will perform well at the tournament.
On the other side of the coin, however, is Coric, who has made his first ever ATP-level final and has everything to play for at tonight’s tie. Although the prospect of going up against an in-form Wawrinka would be daunting for most others, Coric has more than held his own in his career so far.
With his progress to the finals, Coric has become the first teenager in an ATP final in eight years; the last time this happened, his compatriot Marin Cilic reached the finals at New Haven in 2008.
While Wawrinka’s semi-final victory over Benoit Paire was par for the course for the Swiss, Coric put up a spirited fight with some athletic tennis to win his own tie against his older opponent, Briton Aljaz Bedene – who was a finalist at the tournament last year and eventually went down in straight sets to Stan Wawrinka.
It is likely Wawrinka will in fact take the title today and with it, complete a hat-trick of Chennai Open titles. Should he win today, it will be his fourth overall; the Swiss first won the title in 2011 with a victory over Belgium’s Xavier Malisse, and in 2014 defeated doubles specialist Edouard Roger-Vasselin for the title.
But with Coric self-confessedly vying for his first ever ATP title and looking to live his dream, he will play a spirited game, which could perhaps be a thorn in Wawrinka’s side.