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Tennis News • Coric captures improbable Cincinnati Masters 1000 title, beating Tsitsipas in final

Borna Coric beat Stefanos Tsitsipas to win Cincinnati. Photo credit: Western & Southern Open Facebook

By Ricky Dimon

Borna Coric is a Masters 1000 champion.

That would not have seemed unlikely in, say, 2018 — when he surged to No. 12 in the world and finished runner-up at a Masters event in Shanghai. Heading into the 2022 Western & Southern Open, it would have seemed impossible to be saying that on Sunday.

From completely out of nowhere, Coric — ranked 152nd and playing in Cincinnati on a protected ranking — captured the title with a 7-6(0), 6-2 victory over Tsitsipas in the final. The 25-year-old trailed by a break early in the first set but mostly dominated the rest of the match to triumph after one hour and 57 minutes.

“It kind of sucks,” said Tsitsipas, who is now 9-13 lifetime in ATP finals and has lost three this year to go along with three wins. “I hope I can come back here and win it one day. It’s definitely not choking (in finals); I just happen to be playing robots every time.

“Borna, congratulations,” the seventh-ranked Greek continued. “You’ve been kicking my ass the last couple of times, so good for you. Keep working hard; that’s what you do best. You’ve proven yourself over and over again. Also an incredible comeback from your injury; congrats on coming back so strong and proving that you are up there with us.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece reacts. EPA-EFE/JAMES ROSS

Coric isn’t quite up to Tsitsipas near the top of the rankings, but he will soar from 152nd to 29th on Monday. That means he will be seeded at the U.S. Open, as the draw for the year’s final Grand Slam is being released this coming week.

“No, no, absolutely not,” Coric responded when asked if it had sunk in. “I’m still not aware of it. It was a very, very tough match. At the beginning I was not playing very well and he was just pushing me very hard. I started to serve better, I started to play much, much better and I was fighting very hard. In the second set I thought I played the best set of the year.

“I wasn’t ready for this speech five days ago, to be honest,” the 25-year-old added at the trophy ceremony. “I thought I was going to lose in the first round.”

But Coric didn’t lose to Lorenzo Musetti in the first round. He didn’t even lose to Rafael Nadal in the second round. Coric then followed up that shocking result with victories over Roberto Bautista Agut, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Cameron Norrie before beating Tsitsipas. Nadal was the only opponent who even managed to take a set.

“I have no words,” Coric concluded. “It’s just an unbelievable feeling…. I thought I could play well. I was training hard and I knew I could play good tennis. But that I could play this level of tennis, I was just not aware.”

Neither was anyone else.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.