Borna Coric lit up the Shanghai Masters last year with his run to the final but risks exiting in the first round in 2019 at the hands of Andrey Rublev.
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With runner-up points to defend, Borna Coric begins his Shanghai Rolex Masters campaign against Andrey Rublev, who has beaten him in both their previous encounters, on Tuesday.
Coric faces a steep plummet in the rankings from his current position of world no. 15 if he can’t defend at least some of the points he earned when he made a maiden Masters 1000 Series final in Shanghai last year, defeating Roger Federer on the way. Fully 600 of his current 2,130 come from that Shanghai run.
I can’t have been the only one who believed that Coric, ranked a career-high world no. 12 last November, had a very good chance of breaking into the top 10 for the first time in 2019. But things have very much gone in the other direction for the Croatian player. Expectations were high after his 40-20 2018 season, which included a 500-level title in Halle and a semifinal finish at Indian Wells as well as his Shanghai runner-up showing.
It’s not that Coric’s 2019 season has been bad, but it just hasn’t lived up the benchmark set in 2018, and he certainly hasn’t kicked on. The best result of his year so far came just a couple of weeks ago in St Petersburg where he reached the final before losing to Daniil Mevdedev, and he also made semifinals in Dubai and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Masters 1000 Series quarterfinals in Miami and at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, and made the last 16 of the Australian Open. Coric has also been struggling with some injury issues that took him out of Wimbledon and saw him give a walkover to Grigor Dimitrov in the second round of the US Open.
Perhaps Coric’s St Petersburg run, to his first final of the season, suggests he’s fit at the moment, although it was followed by three-set defeats to Alex de Minaur in the quarterfinals of Zhuhai and wildcard Taro Daniel in the first round in Tokyo last week, neither of which bode particularly well.
Coric had only ever won one match in Shanghai before putting together last year’s run, which included victories over Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro (via retirement) as well as his memorable semifinal win over Federer, but he looked very much at home in the conditions then.
He will need to be as he takes on Andrey Rublev in the second round on Tuesday.
Russia’s Rublev, almost a year younger than Coric, was one of the first of his generation to break through when he made a run to the quarterfinals of the US Open in 2017, the same year he won his maiden ATP Tour title as a lucky loser in Umag. He was ranked as high as world no. 31 the following spring after finishing runner-up in Doha, but would be kept off court for some months in the midst of the season by a back injury and his ranking plummeted as a result.
Starting 2019 as the world no. 68, Rublev’s ranking dropped outside the top 100 in February, although he was able almost immediately to stabilize it by reaching the final of the Indian Wells Challenger, finishing runner-up to Kyle Edmund. Ever since, the Russian has been fighting his way back up, reaching the third round of the Miami Masters as a qualifier and scoring his first top-10 win for almost two years over Dominic Thiem on his way to the final in Hamburg, where he finished runner-up to defending champion Nikoloz Basilashvili.
The real breakout result of Rublev’s season, which reminded people just how good he is, came at the Cincinnati Masters, however, when Rublev defeated Basilashvili, Wawrinka and then Federer to reach the semifinals. He went on to make the quarterfinals of the Winston-Salem Open, the fourth round of the US Open – getting another top-10 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, and ousting Nick Kyrgios to boot – and made the quarterfinals in St Petersburg.
Last week’s China Open was the first tournament in five where Rublev failed to win back-to-back matches, beating Grigor Dimitrov but losing to Fabio Fognini, and he comes into Shanghai just a couple of places below his career-high ranking at world no. 33.
Rublev has a perfect 2-0 record vs Coric, having beaten him at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan (albeit in a short-format match) in November 2017 and then in the quarterfinals of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open the following January, 6-3, 7-5. It’s not hard to see why: Rublev is pure, hammered power, while Coric is more of a counterpuncher, and it’s a more direct route to victory for the Russian as a result. Coric is also under huge pressure to defend points here, while Rublev can relax and swing freely. It looks likely to be Rublev who comes through to the second round in Shanghai, ousting last year’s finalist.
Coric vs Rublev Shanghai Masters tennis is live from Shanghai on Tuesday at 12.30pm local/5.30pm BST
Coric vs Rublev tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Last year’s Shanghai finalist in danger of exiting in the first round
Borna Coric lit up the Shanghai Masters last year with his run to the final but risks exiting in the…
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