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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, April 15, 2017

 
Borna Coric

Borna Coric saved five championship points at 5-6 in the second set, rallying for a 5-7, 7-6 (3), 7-5 victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber in the Marrakech final.

Photo credit: Miami Open

Gazing out at the court beneath the brim of his black baseball cap, Borna Coric stared down five championship points as he served at 5-6 in the second set today.

The 20-year-old Croatian never blinked.

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Contesting his third final, Coric exhibited champion character in an inspired rally to capture his first career title.

Battling back from a set and 0-3 down, a resilient Coric fought off five championship points outdueling Philipp Kohlschreiber, 5-7, 7-6 (3) 7-5, to capture the Marrakech championship and his first ATP title.




The prospect of looming loss was liberating for Coric, who played some of his most dynamic tennis when he was down.

“I have to say to Philipp bad luck,” Coric said afterward. “I was a little bit lucky, to be honest. I just thought it was basically over.”

It was a deeply stinging loss for the 33-year-old Kohlschreiber, who was up a break in both the second and third sets and let it get away.

Playing for his first title since he defeated Dominic Thiem to collect the Munich championship last May, Kohlschreiber dropped to 7-9 in ATP finals.

“Unfortunately today is a very painful day, but it was great (final),” Kohlschreiber said. “Borna, it was great fight today—you deserve it. Keep going. I will also keep going in my old ages.”

A year after Coric suffered a straight-sets defeat to Federico Delbonis in the 2016 Marrakech final, he earned a coming of age victory.

The 79th-ranked Croatian is projected to rise to about No. 56 when the new ATP rankings are released tomorrow.

Working varied angles with backhand combinations, Kohlschreiber converted the lone break point of the opening set to build a one-set lead.

Whipping the wide served to drag Coric off the court, Kohlschreiber raced out to a 3-0 second-set lead and seemed in command.

Coric had other ideas. Hitting with more depth and purpose, he answered with a three-game run of his own.

A willingness to play bold on pressure points sparked Coric’s comeback in the second set.

Staring down break point at 3-4, Coric crunched an ace, eventually holding for 4-all.

The 32nd-ranked German ratcheted up the pressure severely with Coric serving to stay alive at 5-6. Kohlschreiber earned five championship points in that game and Coric never once wavered.

Attacking net, Coric erased the second match point with a backhand volley. A tight Kohlschreiber blew his best chance putting a forehand return into the bottom of the net on match point number three. A surprise serve-and-volley saved the fourth match point before Coric cranked a big serve down the middle to fight off the fifth match point then held to force the tie break.

Though Kohlschreiber opened the breaker with an ace, it was all Coric after that. The Croatian reeled off six of the next seven points for a 6-2 lead.

On the second set point, Kohlschreiber tapped a high volley wide as Coric forced the final set.

All that good work Coric did fighting off five match points faded at the start of the final set.

Digging himself into a triple break point hole, Coric scattered his second double fault to donate the break and a 2-1 lead to the veteran.

Zapping a backhand winner down the line, Kohlschreiber denied a break point only to see Coric crack a forehand winner down the line for a second break point. The third seed slide a served out wide to ward off break point.

Displacing his younger opponent with the wide serve again, Kohlschreiber exploited the open court space rapping a forehand down the line to hold for 3-1.




Defending energetically, Coric coaxed a mis-hit for triple break point in the eighth game. Kohlschreiber saved the first two, including firing his 13th ace to close to 30-40, but the German slapped a forehand long than bounced his racquet off the clay in disgust as Coric broke back for 4-all.




Trying to change direction down the line, Kohlschreiber caught the tape instead giving Coric triple championship point.

Racing forward to chase down a drop shot, Coric bumped a forehand winner crosscourt to end a rousing two hour, 38-minute comeback.

 

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