The last time Borna Coric set foot in the competition was at the Miami Open making it through to the quarterfinals opposite Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime. He was stopped in his tracks losing in straight sets. The transition from hard courts to clay can be a challenge but he took it and went straight to Monaco's Monte-Carlo Masters.
He was concerned about how he'd do, admitting his doubts at starting the clay season at a pre-Monte-Carlo. "I was practising hard in the last ten days." Coric thought this to be the answer in a successful tournament.
The first match for the Croat was with France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert, better known as a doubles specialist but growing in popularity in singles. Coric took the aggressive from the onset of the match. He'd begin to win points cleverly and used a change of speed and shot selection differences to cause Herbert to have unforced errors.
Coric had found the answer and continued mixing up his shots to win the first set 6-4. It was the constant cross courting that caused him to be visibly exhausted. Coric had gotten to a huge lead of 5-1 in the second set giving Herbert one more game to soon win the match at 6-4, 6-2.
"I was a little bit lucky and was making the right decisions at the right time..." Coric had said afterwards and it obviously paid off. The next round was the stinger and Coric knew to come in that he had a deficit playing against Italy's Fabio Fognini who he hadn't met within five years.
He had said in an interview that "I need to watch some of his matches...I just need to do some homework..." The Croatian came on fiery and super aggressive. He was intent on hitting cross-court winners while Fognini's rhythm and precision were off.
Coric would win the first set 6-1. It was a slugfest in the second set as Coric became obvious he didn't do enough homework on Fognini. He started playing sloppy, gifting Fognini many points from unforced errors. The Italian was starting to hit his marks and won 6-3 levelling the sets.
The decider would go to the strong and consistent and at first, it seemed like Coric was the guy, but he started falling off in performance. Despite Fognini getting his arm wrapped due to stress and strain, he came on stronger and way more consistent than Coric.
The Italian pulled enough tricks out of his racket to sail to a 5-1 lead. The crowd applauded and Fognini looked up at his wife, ex-WTA player Flavia Pennetta to give out the mental support. Borna Coric's game had dropped off and Fognini slammed on the pressure and precision to win the quarterfinal 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Borna Coric has to re-group in time for the next tournament might be Barcelona with hopes of going deeper and being more consistent. While Fognini was ever so glad to pull the match out and started laughing to his team in the stands that he captures the big 'W' again despite the odds.