Borna Coric is into the first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semifinal of his career thanks to a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) turnaround against No. 7 seeded South African Kevin Anderson at the BNP Paribas Open.
Anderson came into the match with a tournament-best 55 aces, and had dropped his serve only once (38 for 39) in three matches. The 2017 US Open finalist was quick to impose himself on Thursday, an early break giving him a 3-0 first-set advantage. He’d break Coric again with his opponent serving at 2-5 to wrap up the opening set at the 30-minute mark.
But if Anderson has been the event’s most dominant server, Coric has been its most tenacious return man. He dropped just nine games through his first three matches and coming into the quarters had claimed a BNP-leading 21 of 38 return games. The Croat opened the second set with a break of his own and soon leveled the match at a set apiece. Until then, he had never taken a set off Anderson in three career head-to-heads, including a third-round loss to the eventual runner-up at the US Open in 2017.
Anderson had been all but unbeatable in three-setters this year. He was an unblemished 8-0, including a 4-0 mark in third-set tiebreaks. But when push came to shove in the final-set breaker, he couldn’t summon his best tennis as the unforced errors piled up. The 31-year-old is now 0-9 in Masters level quarterfinals in his decade-long career.
After rising to a career-high No. 33 in 2015, Coric had stalled in the rankings the past few years. With that in mind, he opted to clean house at the end of 2017, bringing in an entirely new team behind him. In essence, he hired Canadian Milos Raonic’s former coaching staff, including Riccardo Piatti, Dalibor Sirola and Claudio Zimagliam. It’s not the first time the 21-year-old has opted for a wholesale personnel change, but this latest swap-out could indeed be a good fit.
Following Coric’s Round-of-16 dispatch of American Taylor Fritz, a reporter informed him that he intended to write a “Borna Coric is back” story, to which the former #NextGen poster boy shot back, “I wouldn’t want you to write ‘Borna Coric is back.’ I’m not back yet.”
If he’s not “back,” it sure looks like he’s on his way. With his performance at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Coric will jump from No. 49 to at least No. 36 when the new ATP rankings are published on Monday. He could climb higher if he moves on to the final, but his semifinal opponent — either Roger Federer or South Korean Hyeon Chung — might have something to say about that.