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Coric vs Sousa ATP St. Petersburg SF Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Coric faces tough Sousa test in St. Petersburg semi

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 20 Sep 2019
  • Borna Coric vs Joao Sousa is live from St. Petersburg on Saturday, 21 September from 2:00pm local time/ 12:00pm BST
  • Coric won their only previous meeting in Halle in July
Borna Coric (PA Sport)

World No. 15, Borna Coric seeks a spot in his first final of the season when he takes on Portugal's Joao Sousa in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

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Coric is contesting his third semi-final of the season, and will attempt to finally cross this hurdle having lost to Roger Federer in the last four in Dubai and to Adrian Mannarino in s-Hertogenbosch. 

That he has only made three semi-finals this year, and is yet to reach a final has been a bit of a surprise, given the progress he recorded last year. A career-best 2018 included a maiden ATP 500 title in Halle, where he sensationally stopped Roger Federer in the final, while he also reached his first Masters 1000 final, beating Federer again in the semis before falling short against Novak Djokovic in the title match.

Coric has struggled to reproduce that level in 2019, managing a 23-15 record for year heading into St. Petersburg. The 22-year-old has had injury problems this year, skipping Wimbledon due to an abdominal complaint, and pulling out of the US Open after just one round with a back injury, but he's back fit again, and has battled through to the semi-finals on the indoor hard courts of St. Petersburg.

There was an element of good fortune about his opening round victory over Marton Fucsovics, with his opponent retiring while trailing 3-0 in the final set. Coric had fought back from a set and a break down, winning seven of eight games from 7-6 4-3 down before Fucsovics retired. 

He was again in similar trouble against Norwegian young gun, Casper Ruud in the quarter finals, trailing by a set and a break, but yet again, he hauled himself out of danger, breaking twice from 3-2 down in the second set to force a decider. There wasn't much between the players in the final set, with Coric converting the only break point of the set in the sixth game en route a hard-fought 3-6 7-5 6-3 victory.

"I didn't start very well. I thought he was playing much better than me," Coric said. "But then I started to play much better, also much more aggressive, and I think in the end, that paid off."

The fourth seed struck seven aces through the two-hour contest, winning 77% of points behind his first serve and 63% behind his second in a generally solid serving performance. 

Coric has made five tour-level finals, winning two titles. However, he's yet to win and title on hard courts, and has not reached a final on an indoor hard court. Can he change that when he takes on Portugal's Joao Sousa in Saturday's St. Petersburg semi-final?

At first sight, Sousa comes across as a clay-court grinder with supreme movement and a useful forehand, and not the sort of player that would excel on hard courts, definitely not indoor hard courts, but he has got a surprisingly good record on the surface, with two of his three career titles coming on indoor hard courts. The Portuguese was champion in Kuala Lumpur in 2013, and in Valencia in 2015, while he also made finals in Metz in 2014, and St. Petersburg in 2015. Half of his 10 career finals have come on hard courts.

He has also recorded his best Grand Slam performances on the quicker surfaces, as he has made the fourth round at Wimbledon and the US Open, the third round at the Australian Open, but has never been past the second round at Roland Garros!

He has taken a particular liking to St. Petersburg, as he has now reached the semi-finals three times in the last seven years.

Sousa struggled through the first half of the 2019 season, failing to reach a quarter final in his first 17 tournaments (11-17 win-loss record), but he had a bit of a purple patch in July, making the fourth round at Wimbledon, the quarter finals in Bastad and the semis in Gstaad. He slipped back into his pre-Wimbledon form after that, falling at the first hurdles in Cincinnati, Winston-Salem and the US Open, but St. Petersburg has once again brought out the best in the Portuguese, as he has got through Jozef Kovalik, Karen Khachanov and Mikhail Kukushkin without dropping a set.

"Today was another great day for me. I was able to play good tennis. I'm working very well with my slice. I was able to connect and to be comfortable with this shot, " Sousa said after his victory over Kukushkin in the quarter finals.

The Portuguese was solid behind his serve against Kukushkin, operating at 71% first serve percentage and winning 75% of points when the first serve found its mark. He also sent down 10 aces and saved all four break points he faced in the 7-6 6-2 victory.

Can he reach a second St. Petersburg final, and his first of the season by taking out Coric on Saturday?

Coric scored an extremely tight 7-6 5-7 7-6 victory in their only previous meeting in Halle earlier in the year, and this one also has the makings of another very closely-fought battle. They are both fantastic athletes and defenders, and the outcome of this may well come down to who is more courageous on the big points. Coric probably edges it in the serve and backhand departments, but Sousa is more comfortable on the forehand wing. Coric may be the higher ranked player, but it’s hard to ignore Sousa’s performances in St. Petersburg, and his overall record on indoor hard courts.

It should be another hard-fought battle, and could well drag into a final set. 

Borna Coric vs Joao Sousa is live from St. Petersburg on Saturday, 21 September from 2:00pm local time/ 12:00pm BST

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Coric vs Sousa ATP St. Petersburg SF Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Coric faces tough Sousa test in St. Petersburg semi

Borna Coric attempts to reach his first final of the season when he takes on Joao Sousa in St. Petersburg on Saturday. Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online

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