Roger Federer Narrowly Escapes Borna Coric Challenge to Reach Eighth Indian Wells Final, Will Face Juan Martin Del Potro Next
(March 17, 2018) Roger Federer overcame a big challenge from young Croatian Borna Coric to reach his eighth BNP Paribas Open final rallying for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win. The Swiss won the final eleven points to lock up the victory. Federer, the defending champion has an opportunity to win a record sixth title win in Indian Wells.
World No. 1 Federer is now at 17-0 on the season, his best start of any year of his career.
“I’m happy,” said Federer. “Look, especially also with the match, you know, it was just a fighting match rather than, like — it didn’t come easy, so I had to go get it. Also got a little bit lucky, of course, throughout the match.
“I hung tough and put a lot of effort into it to get the record, if you like. I mean, you go from one to the next. Clearly, the focus has to be the finals right now and not enjoying the record.
“But it’s nice to get off to a good start this year, and I hope I can play well again tomorrow.”
Novak Djokovic has the overall record for best start to a season at 41-0 in 2011.
Coric came out strong, playing aggressively giving Federer no room for error. Coric held steadily throughout the first set and broke Federer’s serve in the eleventh game and held for to close out the set. He hit 8 winners in the opener.
Coric broke Federer’s serve to open the second set, building a 4-2 lead. Federer’s error count went down and Coric’s went up. The 20-time major winner won the next four games to draw even at 5-7, 6-4.
Coric refused to go away, breaking the Swiss to open the third set. Federer again was forced to crawl back into the set. Federer was up to the challenge, breaking back twice and winning the last 11 straight points to claim the victory.
“I was very close, definitely,” said Coric. “I felt like I had him, you know — I mean, he was coming back into the match in the second set, you know.
“But then when I won that game, I think it was on 3-2, Love-40 down, you know, I thought, that’s it. That’s pretty much it. I thought he was going to drop, but he didn’t. He stayed in the match very, very long, and I just couldn’t keep it up anymore.
“At 4-3, he played very smart, I think, and I missed couple shots, and that’s it. Then again in the third set, I had two times break, you know. But, you know, that’s why he’s champion.”
“I should have lost a match,” Federer said to media. “I was down twice a break in the third, I was down a break in the second.
“So, yeah, no doubt about it, this was definitely the toughest match, maybe the toughest match. You know, because against Marin (Cilic at the Australian Open) I was also up most of the match, and the only moment I was in a very difficult moment, I think I was down breakpoints at the beginning of the fifth, but then I was able to cruise away.
“Today wasn’t anything like it. I always felt likes I was down in the score, and so to come back this way was a good one.”
“He’s a great retriever,” Federer added. “It became a bit of a cat-and-mouse game. And when you’re thinking you can play offense all the time and then he catches you off guard and you have to go back into defense, I felt like maybe in the beginning it wasn’t happening naturally, but I thought he was protecting his serve very well.
“I was just hoping that through tougher rallies and staying in the match for longer, you know, I would start to feel better in defense, particularly because in the beginning it wasn’t quite there. But I think it had something to do with him rather than me. I’m physically totally fine. So, yeah, I’m happy I’m feeling this way, actually.”
For his efforts this week in reaching his first Masters Series semifinal, the 21-year-old Coric will rise in the rankings from 49 to 36.
Federer will be playing No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro in Sunday’s final.
Del Potro became the second man from Argentina to notch his 400th career win on the ATP World Tour, beating Canadian and 32nd seed Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-3. Tennis Hall of Famer, four-time major winner Guillermo Vilas had 929 wins in his career for Argentina.
It was dominant performance by the Argentine. “It was surprising to see him serving not too hard, and I broke his serve very quick in both sets,” Del Potro said. “That give me the control of the match.
“I play a smart game, because the conditions were tough to play, but I did everything good. I served well. I took all my chances. It was an easier match than what I expect before.”
“Every time you play a little short, he punishes you,” said the Canadian. “And over the last 12 months, 13 months since we last played, he has a lot more freedom on that backhand side to hit through it.
“And I remember watching him. I didn’t play him before his injuries, but his backhand was probably one of the things that was overlooked because the forehand was so hard. But the backhand, I remember when he won the US Open, he could hit it crosscourt without any guys being able to have the freedom of running around or anything. He’s gotten that back quite a bit.
“So, you know, he served well. He struck the ball well. I just didn’t do what I needed to do.”
Asked about playing Del Potro, Federer said: “We have had a lot of close matches. Big matches, close matches. Jeez, I just tried to think back at the French Open semis, US Open finals, Olympic semis, Basel finals, a bunch of those guys, and few World Tour Finals matches, Shanghai. Just three-setters, five-setters the whole way. It’s been good, you know.
“I think we have an interesting matchup, you know. We both know what the other is trying to do, and we try to stop the other person from doing it. But it’s hard when me or him is in full flight. It’s basically an arm wrestle the whole time, and I think we enjoy that.
“We know each other well. I think we respect each other in a big way. We’re both happy for one another, I think, when we do well, generally happy.
“So it’s nice to see him back in the top 10 and making big strides now, and I think he’s going to have a great season. I’m very happy for him.”
“We play great matches together,” noted Del Potro. “I love to play against him.”
“He’s the favorite to win tomorrow, but I will try to do my best tennis. I beat him in the past, and I know how can I do to repeat that, but is not easy. It will be a good challenge to see how my level is against him.
“And then I think everybody was expecting that final, and I will try to enjoy the atmosphere on court.”
Del Potro, who won the 2009 US Open, is seeking his first Masters Series 1000 title. Federer is looking for his 28th.
Federer leads the in the head-to-head record against Del Potro 18-6.