21-year-old Croat Borna Coric has arrived in Halle with two ATP wins on the grass under his belt but he played a rock solid tennis throughout the week to go all the way, beating the nine-time champion Roger Federer 7-6 3-6 6-2 in two hours and six minutes for his second ATP crown after Marrakech 2017. Borna played rock solid tennis, both in his service games and the baseline overall, scoring his first win over Roger in three matches after a tough loss in Indian Wells three months ago.
The Croat saved three out of four break points, stealing the opening set in the tie break and regaining his composure after losing the second set. Roger didn't play his best tennis, just like in the previous three matches against Benoit Paire, Matthew Ebden and Denis Kudla and this time it wasn't enough to emerge as a winner, unable to impose his shots and suffering two breaks in the final set to finish on the losing side, missing a chance to win the 10th title in Halle and losing the first place to Rafael Nadal, standing 50 points behind his great rival.
They had a similar number of aces, serving at 70% and 74% and producing only seven break points in the entire match. It has to be said that Roger won eight points more than Borna, including five in the opening set, but it wasn't enough to give him the triumph after being completely outplayed in the deciding set.
The Swiss had 43 winners and 23 unforced errors while Borna stood on a 32-21 ratio, taming his shots nicely and keeping the pace with Federer. Roger did everything right in his service games in the opening set, holding at love four times and dropping three points in six games in total to keep all the pressure on Borna.
Still, his return game was off during the entire week and despite winning a lot of points on Borna's serve he couldn't create break points in the first five return games. The 11th game was the longest of the match and Coric showed a fighting spirit, saving a break point after a 20-shot rally to avoid the setback and reach the tie break.
There, the first seven points went with the serve and Roger earned the first mini-break at 4-3 after a solid forehand attack, looking good to end the breaker on the winning side. Borna had some other plans, though, fending off the first set point at 4-6 with a deep return and another one after an amazing point that saw chances for both players, to level the score at 6-6.
A service winner sent Borna 7-6 up and he stole the set after forcing an error from Roger, taking the breaker 8-6 despite winning five points less than Roger during the set. The Swiss served above 75% in set number two as well and he lost just seven points in five service games to keep the pressure on the other side of the next once again.
This time Borna couldn't defend his serve as well as in the opener, saving a break point in games four and six but losing serve at 15 in game eight after a terrible volley, allowing Roger to serve for the set in the following game.
Four service winners got the job done for Federer in that ninth game and he was back in the game, entering the final set as the favorite. Nonetheless, Borna restored his shots and he delivered one of his finest serving performances, missing only one first serve and losing four points in five games, waiting for a chance on the return patiently.
It had to come as Roger started to struggle on his second serve and he got broken in game six after a backhand error, drifting further and further away from his 99th ATP crown. Coric closed the seventh game with an ace to gain a 5-2 lead and he broke Roger for the second time in game eight to cross the finish line and celebrate his biggest title on the Tour so far, also becoming the fourth youngest player who defeated Roger on grass.