Nadal's injury comeback did not go as planned, as he went down 7-6(9), 4-6, 6-3 to Coric in his opening match of the Cincinnati Masters. This was Nadal's first match since a seven millimeter abdominal tear forced his withdrawal from Wimbledon ahead of his semifinal against Nick Kyrgios. Last week, he pulled out of the Canadian Open after not being able to recover completely from the same injury.
Borna Coric took to Twitter to express his elation after his remarkable victory over the 36-year-old, saying it's a privilege to compete against a champion like Nadal. The Croatian added that his concentration now lies exclusively on the third-round encounter.
"Its always a privilege to play against a champion like Rafael Nadal. The focus now is on the 3rd round, " Coric tweeted.
With this victory, Coric improved his head-to-head record to 3-2 against Nadal, joining Novak Djokovic, Dominik Hrbaty, and Nikolay Davydenko as the only players with a positive head-to-head record against the 22-time Grand Slam winner.
The World No. 152 will be up against another Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut, in the third round in Cincinnati.
"I'm sorry that I'm out in the first round, obviously I didn't play my best match"- Rafael Nadal after his Cincinnati Open 2R exit
In his post-match press conference, Rafael Nadal expressed regret for his early exit from the event, adding that his opponent played better and deserved to win.
"I can't thank enough the organization for making things very easy [for me]," Nadal said, adding, "I try my best. They know and I'm sorry that I'm out in the first round, no, but that's tennis, that's the sport. The other opponent plays well, and he played better than me today."
"Obviously I didn't play my best match. Something that can happen. Coming back from, yeah, a tough period of time, something that easy to accept and easy to say congrats to Borna that he played better," the world No.3 added.
He will now turn his attention to the US Open at the end of the month, where he will attempt to win his fifth title at Flushing Meadows and 23rd Grand Slam singles title.