Borna Coric, a former junior World No. 1, rose up the ranks very quickly when he joined the professional circuit. The Croat became the youngest ranked player in the top 100 in 2014, and then the youngest in the top 50 the following year.
After taking some time to adjust to the higher level, Coric went on to peak at No. 12 in the rankings in 2018. With two ATP singles titles and a Grand Slam quarterfinal under his belt, the 24-year-old has been ranked in the top 40 every week since June 2018.
Currently on the sidelines due to a shoulder injury, Borna Coric spoke with Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview last week, shedding light on his physical condition and revealing his overall career goals. The 2020 US Open quarterfinalist also shared his views on the adjusted ATP ranking system, and talked about the tools he has been using to remain motivated through the current pandemic.
Exclusive interview with Borna Coric
Sportskeeda: You had a very successful junior career, reaching the No. 1 ranking and winning the US Open boys' title. A lot of junior players have spoken about how the transition to the professional circuit is tougher than they expected. Looking back, do you feel that life on the ATP tour has turned out just the way you imagined it to be?
Borna Coric: I have always enjoyed life on the tour. The only thing that was difficult was the quality of tennis, but when you come to the ATP tour you have good conditions in terms of the hotels, courts and possibility of practicing more.
Regarding transition, I was never really struggling except for the period when I couldn't break into the top 30.
Sportskeeda: I read that you started playing tennis at the age of five, with your father. Can you tell us about your earliest memories of tennis and what drew you to the sport as a kid? Who were your idols when you were growing up?
Borna Coric: I started playing tennis when I was four and a half years old, actually. My sister was playing, she was six back then, and so my father did as well. They would bring me to their practices, so I fell in love with the game and became interested.
My idols were definitely Goran Ivanisevic and Ivan Ljubicic. I was impressed while watching the Croatian Davis Cup team winning the title back in 2005; it was a huge moment for me as a young tennis player and it inspired me.
From that day, I was hoping to be on the team one day.
Sportskeeda: Croatia has had many great tennis players in recent times, including Goran Ivanisevic, Ivan Ljubicic, Marin Cilic and Iva Majoli. How much of their success inspired you when you were first starting out? And is tennis still popular amongst the youngsters in Croatia?
Sportskeeda: Since the tour resumed last August, you have had some good results - reaching the quarters of the US Open, the finals in St. Petersburg, and the semis in Rotterdam recently. However, you pulled out of the recent events in Doha and Maimi due to a shoulder injury. Can you tell us the status of the injury, and when you expect to be back on the tour?
Borna Coric: Obviously, those were very good tournaments for me. It is a shame that I am injured right now because I felt I was playing really good tennis in Rotterdam. But at the end of the day it is tennis, so it is possible that you get injured sometimes.
It’s nothing major, I need to rest for a couple of weeks and I am sure I will be ready for the clay season.
Sportskeeda: There has been a lot of criticism in recent weeks about the ranking system, with lower-ranked players finding it difficult to move up the ladder. What is your view of the COVID-adjusted ranking system currently in effect on the ATP tour?
Borna Coric: I can understand those critics about ranking points; it is not easy for lower-ranked players to break through now. I don't have a really strong opinion on the topic though, since I always try to accept things the way they are.
For me, it is also much harder to break into the top 10, so you just need to accept the situation and work hard.
Sportskeeda: A lot of players have also spoken about the lack of motivation in traveling to tournaments during the pandemic, when prize money has steeply declined. What is your primary motivation to play on the tour, and how do you maintain it in such difficult times?
Borna Coric: My first and biggest motivation is always the game. I love it and enjoy competing. So for me, the only thing which is tough is travel with all the COVID testings and all the things we need to do to arrive at a certain place, which is not easy.
But playing tennis is something I love, so I do not have a problem with motivation.
Sportskeeda: Tokyo will mark your second Olympic Games. Can you tell us about your experience at your first Olympics, and how high the event is in your priority list? Also, do you plan to compete in doubles and mixed doubles in Tokyo, along with singles?
Borna Coric: The Olympic Games was a really nice experience for me five years ago. I enjoyed it and decided to definitely go back, so this year I will play in Tokyo. I am not sure about doubles or mixed doubles though; I have not spoken to anyone yet on the same.
Sportskeeda: Which is the one tournament you would like to win more than any other in the world? And while we're on that topic, would you rather win a Grand Slam or reach the No. 1 spot, if given a choice between the two?
If I need to choose between being ranked No. 1 or winning a Grand Slam, I would choose to win a Grand Slam.
Sportskeeda: Can you tell us about your team, and which people are a part of it?
Borna Coric: Martin Stepanek is my tennis coach, and Yiannis Louizos is my physio and fitness coach at the same time.
Sportskeeda: You have had wins over Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and played some very close matches against Novak Djokovic too. How has the experience of facing them on the court been for you?
Borna Coric: Obviously, all three of them are legends of tennis; it was really amazing to play against them. I learned a lot from those matches. Each one of them is very unique.
Sportskeeda: How do you spend your time away from the tennis world when you are not practicing or competing in events? Do you play any other sport for leisure?
Borna Coric: I spend time with my family and friends, as I do not play any other sports. I like to use my time off for those kinds of activities and not think about tennis.
Sportskeeda: Are you a fan of social media? What do you most like about it, and how do you deal with criticism from fans after a tough loss?
Borna Coric: I am a fan of social media, as in my opinion it is a very good way of engaging with your fans. Regarding critics on social media, I accept it as it is. It will always be like that so you need to move forward, as you can't do much about it.
Sportskeeda: Your backhand is your preferred side and considered to be your stronger weapon. Have you been doing any particular work on your forehand over the past few years?
Borna Coric: I was doing a lot of work on my forehand actually; it was my main goal to improve it over the last couple of years. Now I am mostly satisfied with it, but of course, there are times when I do not play good. I am generally glad when I receive a ball on that side.
Sportskeeda: While returning, you have shown a tendency to 'guess' which direction the server is going to go, and then committing to your decision. Have you been inspired by Andre Agassi in this regard, and do you think it's a more rewarding approach than standing your ground (like, say, Novak Djokovic does)?
Borna Coric: I do that sometimes, as against big servers, in my opinion, it is smart to act that way. Obviously, Novak Djokovic and other amazing returners, they can wait and see where the ball is going. For me it is a bit harder, so I just choose a side.
I heard that from Agassi when he was playing against Ivanisevic, so that is one of the reasons I am doing it as well.
Sportskeeda: Who is the toughest young player you have faced? Out of the upcoming generation - Lorenzo Musetti, Jannik Sinner, Carlos Alcaraz - who do you think has the highest potential?
Borna Coric: To be honest, all of them are great players, showing huge potential, and they are already ranked quite high. Considering his breakthrough, Jannik Sinner will be in the top very soon in my opinion. But all of them are amazing players and good guys, so I’m looking forward to playing against them.
For more on Borna Coric, you can follow him on Instagram here.