At the Net: Coric looks like the real deal

Philadelphia, PA ( – As I gaze into my crystal ball, I can
see Croatia’s Borna Coric as a future world No 1.

He’s only 18, but Coric is already the youngest player in the ATP’s Top 100 at
a career-high No. 53 as we speak.

Coric, who stunned Rafael Nadal at the Swiss Indoors Basel last October,
has an intense passion for tennis, uncanny maturity and a perverse drive
when it comes to getting the best out of himself.

Note: Coric’s run into the semifinals in Basel last year launched him into the
Top 100 for the first time, making him the youngest player to do so since
Nadal 11 years earlier.

Coric started the 2014 season outside the Top 300 and ended it by winning
the ATP Star of Tomorrow Award.

So impressed was John McEnroe by Coric’s ’14 season that he suggested the Croat
will be in the Top 10 within three years.

If Coric has his way, it’ll be a lot sooner than that.

Having first picked up a racket to play with his sister when he was 5, Coric’s
development has since been chartered by countrymen Goran Ivanisevic, Marin
Cilic and Mario Ancic, all of whom have nurtured Coric though his transition
from the juniors to the pros.

“He’s very well grounded; a smart guy and has the heart of a champion,”
said the former world No. 7 Ancic. “I have zero doubt he will be on top of the
tennis world. He will be a superstar.”

Cilic, who under the tutelage of Ivanisevic came of age to capture his first
Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open last year, is of the same mind as Ancic when
it comes to Coric’s will to succeed.

“Borna often goes above his limits,” Cilic said. “That’s one of his best
qualities. He’s not afraid.”

Coric closed out his junior career in style, beating Aussie fellow young gun
Thanasi Kokkinakis to capture the 2013 U.S. Open junior crown. That big win
propelled him to junior world No. 1 and set the stage for an impressive Davis
Cup performance against that year’s Wimbledon champ, Andy Murray.

Coric made his Grand Slam debut as a qualifier at last year’s U.S. Open and
beat Czech slugger Lukas Rosol to reach the second round.

“He is very strong mentally for his age, he is fast, and probably the player
he is most similar to in style is (Novak) Djokovic,” said the former Wimbledon
champion Ivanisevic. “Big occasions do not worry him; he showed that in Davis
Cup against Murray and Great Britain, and in beating Nadal.”

In an era when so many players are peaking in their late 20s on the ATP
Tour, some of the qualities that set the Zagreb native Coric apart from the
loads of teenagers trying to make it on the circuit are his on-court demeanor,
inner belief and drive.

“I think I can challenge anyone in the world, but I can’t beat anyone in the
world,” said the lanky, 6-foot-1 Coric. “But apart from the Top 10 guys, I can
beat all others, I think. I really love it when I have a big crowd behind me,
the big time. I do like the big occasions.

“I’ve improved a lot physically,” he said. “A year ago, I was still a small kid
and I just couldn’t cope with all the guys who were much bigger. Now, I’m much
stronger. Tennis-wise, my serve improved a lot. I can still work on it,
because some days it’s a very low percentage. Also, my forehand, which is
still not as good as I want, but I’m sure it’s going to come with time.”

Coric has set his sights on the Top 10.

“I need to get into the Top 10 before I can say, ‘I did it,'” he said. “That
was my goal when I was younger. I always have high expectations for myself.”

This year, Coric, who’s coached by former Aussie Open champ Thomas Johansson,
reached a semifinal in Dubai, where he lost to the great Roger Federer after
stunning Andy Murray in straight sets as a lucky loser in the quarters; and was
a quarterfinalist in Estoril, Portugal, last week, where he succumbed to in-
form Spanish clay-courter Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Coric was a first-round loser at this year’s Australian Open, but don’t expect
him to drop his opener when the French Open rolls around later this month.

Eighteen years old and he already has wins over Nadal and Murray under his

The sky’s the limit for the capable Croat.