Djokovic Needs 10 M.P. To Beat Coric

Novak Djokovic won a match of small margins on Wednesday in a wonderful clash that was full of clean hitting at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. The two-time former champion, a resident in the Principality of Monaco, needed 10 match point opportunities to put away Croatia’s Borna Coric, who, this year, has showcased his huge potential.

Ninth seed Djokovic beat Coric 7-6(2), 7-5 in two hours and 16 minutes to reach the third round, where he will face fifth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem, one of the ATP World Tour’s strongest performers on clay courts over the past two years.

Coric first saved two match points at 3-5, 15/40 in the second set, then recovered from 0/40 on Djokovic’s serve, before saving a further four match points in a 12-minute and 46-second 10th game. Djokovic immediately tightened up his game to break to 15, courtesy of a backhand error from Coric, which was the same shot that the Croatian hit long minutes later to end the encounter.

Djokovic, who is now 32-9 at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament – where he lifted the 2013 (d. Nadal) and 2015 (d. Berdych) trophies, will next prepare to meet Thiem on Thursday. The Serbian leads 5-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head, but Thiem did beat Djokovic in straight sets in their last match – the 2017 Roland Garros quarter-finals.

In the first set, Djokovic broke to 30 for a 3-1 lead, striking cleanly on a backhand, but it was the very shot that let him down three games later when Coric broke back. The set turned at 5-5, 15/40, with Djokovic in trouble out wide, but Coric snatched at a forehand down the line and hit the ball into the net. It was the first of four successive groundstroke errors for the 21-year-old Croatian. Djokovic took control of the tie-break, moving inside the baseline to expose the angles of the court and Coric’s movement.

The go-for broke, clean ball striking — particularly backhand to backhand — continued in the second set, resulting in three straight service breaks, before former World No. 1 Djokovic regained the momentum prior to a tense finale.

Last month, Coric, who is No. 39 in the ATP Rankings, advanced to his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells (l. to Federer).

Elsewhere, No. 11 seed Roberto Bautista proved to be too strong for his Spanish compatriot, Feliciano Lopez, 6-3, 7-6(5) in one hour and 38 minutes. He will next meet sixth-seeded Belgian David Goffin in the third round.

Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber lost just six of his first-service points in an impressive 6-4, 6-2 win over last year’s finalist, No. 15 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain, in 84 minutes. Kohlschreiber now plays fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.

Our partners