Super talent Coric gives 100% to reach the top
Former Junior’s number 1 Borna Coric is just 17 years old and has already beaten Janowicz (Nr. 21), Roger-Vassilin (Nr. 54), Zeballos (Nr. 114) and Rosol (Nr. 27). He just entered the top 200 and shows to be able to compete with the big guys. How is it to be this good at such a young age and already represent Croatia in the Davis Cup? In this exclusive interview with TennisPhotoWorld he tells about his career so far, how he deals with the pressure, how it is to be on the road all the time, how he keeps the balance between tennis and other things in live, what he is working on and how his ideal tennis match would look like. We got to know him as a very mature, open and enthusiastic player.
Competing with the big guys
How is it to represent your country in the Davis Cup and already belong to the world top 200 at the age of seventeen? Tennis talent Borna Coric, born on the 14th of November 1996 in Zagreb, gave us the opportunity to ask this question. “It’s just amazing to already play in the Croatian Davis Cup team. I was watching it on TV like two or three years ago and now I’m playing for my country. It’s a very nice feeling and I’m proud of myself,” tells an enthusiastic Borna. In 2013 he showed to be one of the most promising players around. He won five ITF Future titles, reached the quarterfinal of Wimbledon, the semi-finals of The Australian Open and Roland Garros, became US Open champion and the best junior of the world. In 2013 Coric also made his début in the senior circuit, representing Croatia in the Davis Cup tie against Great Britain. Andy Murray (Nr. 12) showed to be too good for the junior’s number one. Though one year later Borna surprisingly defeated Janowicz (Nr. 21) in five sets in Croatia’s tie against Poland. Entering his favourite ATP tournament in Umag with a wild card he reached the quarterfinals, losing in three sets of the first seated Fabio Fognini (Nr. 17) after sending Roger-Vassilin (54) and Zeballos (114) home. Coric again showed his strength to compete with the big guys on tour beating Lukas Rosol (27) in straight sets in the first round of the US-Open.
No pressure, just give it all
One thing is clear: this boy can play tennis and is making huge steps in his career. How are these big wins possible? “I don’t know. I was about to ask you that,” he jokes. “Support of the crowd is always nice and I think the hard work I’ve put in my career so far is paying off now.” We might be surprised by the steps this talent is making, but is Borna himself also surprised by his own results? “Yes and no. When I face better players, I know that I can compete with them. If I play my best tennis I know I can win. Besides that I try not to put pressure on myself. I used to, but now I realized that in the end I play tennis for myself and I just see it as a new challenge.” Where did he get this confidence from? “Well, I don’t have it that much as some people might think. But I’ve now come to a point that I just give 100% of myself and what will happen is out of my hands.”
A good balance
As these answers show, Borna already makes a very mature and open impression. Is there also a mental coach helping him with this? “No, I think it helps that I look at my career within some bigger picture. I have a good balance in my live between tennis and other things. I’m also going to school in Croatia and I spend time with friends. Tennis comes first, but the balance is good right now.” Isn’t it hard to always have the discipline to get the best out of yourself and your tennis while you’re still young and have all those things you like to do? “Yes of course, it’s tough. But I understand that this is my job. This is what I’m going to do for my living. Other people are going to school and get a job. And this is what I’m going to do for the next ten or fifteen years. I just need to do it.” What is it that makes Borna so passionate about the tennis sport? “I just love the competition. I love it when I’m in a big fight on court in front of a big crowd. Everybody cheering, I love that. I don’t like it when there is a quiet atmosphere.” In that case playing in the Davis Cup seems the right place to be. “Yes, it is great. And now I also have our captain Krajan with me on the bench who can help me during the match. It helps me to really focus and play my best tennis.” When asking him if he is easy to coach he starts laughing. “No, I dare say I’m not easy to coach. I definitely have my own opinion. I don’t just do something because somebody tells me. I like to discuss certain points and talk about it.”
It’s going to be fine
We all need support of people close to us to achieve things and be happy in live. Who are these people for the Croatian player. “My family is helping me a lot. When it’s tough and you are having bad times, you need someone to tell you that everything it going to be fine, because you’re a good player.” How is it to be on the road so much time? “When I was younger I didn’t like it at all, because I was always nervous. Now I’m used to it and I understand that this is how I’m going to live as a tennis prof. I just except it and now I enjoy it very much.” And of course he is not alone, his coach Ryan Jones and sometimes his dad and also his mum travel with him.
How does the game of this hardworking newbie in the top 200 look like? Two thinks stand out: his serve and backhand are powerful strokes and mentally he is able to play good matches. What goes on in his head when facing break points against him? “Just serve big. Serve as big as you can, because that is the most important thing to do. If you have to play a rally it’s very tough. Then I can get a little bit tight and the balls are flying, especially being a break-point down. So, that’s why I always focus on a big first serve.” His tactic being one set or match point up? “Haha, actually it is the same. If I make the first serve very often I’ll win the point. And it’s a little easier, because I’m less nervous, knowing that when I would lose the point and go back to deuce I’ve still two points left.” Does he have certain rituals or trigger words to stay relaxed on big points? “Not just for those point, but between every point in the match. When I don’t do it, I’ll start thinking about other things that are less important. For example, ‘who is watching me?’ So, I always try to do the same thing before every point, also when playing big points. An example of that? ‘I’m just saying to myself ‘you’re playing great and you’re serving really good. Don’t be stressed, don’t be nervous.’ Things like that.”
Room for improvement
What is the biggest room for improvement in the game of the Croat? “Actually I’m working on everything. My forehand I’ve been working on all my live. And the biggest room for improvement are my volleys. If I get more confidence in my volleys I can improve my game. He nods towards Draganja (Davis Cup member and Croatian doubles specialist): “He can help me with that for sure,” he jokes. “And I think I’ll ask Cilic for advice to further improve my forehand.” Though Croatia is a small country it definitely has some great tennis players. Of course Goran Ivanisevic (former Nr. 2) won ‘his magic’ Wimbledon as a wild card entrant in 2001 and recently Cilic (Nr. 9) continued the Croatian dream by winning the US Open. In the past players like Ancic (former Nr. 7) and Ljubicic (former N. 3) belonged to the top 10 of the world and also Dodig (Nr. 64) and Karlovic (Nr. 30) are currently doing well on tour. How come that such a young and small country like Croatia has such good players? Does the Croatian water perhaps contains something magical? In an earlier press conference Davis Cup captain Krajan mentioned: “I don’t know for what reason we have all these good individuals. Maybe the conditions they play in at a young age make them stronger and even more hungry. We may not have all the facilities like some other countries. Going through this could make them tougher.” Borna agrees on this: “At home we are not in the best position compared to some other countries you know. It’s tough. It is not as easy to get the right facilities to train and make it compared to countries like America or Australia.” Though, quite recently the modern Umag Tennis Academy has been opened involving the Croatian hero Goran Ivanisevic.
Shut up and play
If Borna would not be a tennis player, he would like to be a boxer, matching his favourite sporting personality Mike Tyson. As a kid his idols where Ivanisevic and Nadal. Will he become as big as these players? He seems to have the right mind set. On the question if he enjoys every match he plays, he answers: “No, I don’t enjoy every match for sure. But you know, when I’m not enjoying a match I know I need to play, because this is my job. I just need to shut up and play.” To really make it in on the senior tour Davis Cup captain Krajan told us earlier today that talented juniors should not underestimate the difference in level of play and deal with all their lost matches in the first two or three years, without losing their motivation and believe. If Borna will make it, only the future can tell. There is no doubt that he is doing well right now. His ideal match? “No, not an easy victory. I prefer a fantastic match with a big crowd and a fifth set 21-19 for me. That would be great!”, he tells smiling. Let’s hope the future will bring this for Borna. And with a big smile and the words “Yes indeed!” the interview has come to an end.