In a clash between two young players that are almost certain to have a long and storied rivalry, Alexander Zverev and Borna Coric face off for a place in Miami Open last four. For Zverev, making the semifinals would go someway to righting what has so far been a very disappointing year. Potentially winning his third Masters would go even further. As for Coric, after making the semifinals in Indian Wells last week and coming close to the final, he’ll be desperate to keep his good form going. But who will win?
Zverev and Coric have met twice so far in their careers and it is the Croatian who has won both matches. In their first meeting in Cincinnati in 2015 in the first round Coric defeated the German in a three set battle 7-5 3-6 7-6. When they clashed again in the second of the US Open, there were few who backed Coric. Zverev had been the champion in Washington and Montreal and was the form player coming into the tournament. But he was undone by Coric’s defensive skills and lost 6-3 5-7 6-7 6-7.
Path to the quarterfinals
Zverev, seeded fourth in Miami, began his tournament against Daniil Medvedev of Russia. Medvedev is an unorthodox player, but possesses a real weapon in his two-handed backhand. Zverev won the first set six games to four, but was overrun in the second as Medvedev won it for the loss of just one game. In the decider, neither man could gain the upper hand but it was Zverev who stayed strong to win it in a tiebreak.
His struggles looked to be continuing when he faced the veteran David Ferrer. The Spaniard, once ranked as high as world #3, was dominant in the opener, winning it 6-2. But an early exchange of breaks in the second set left Zverev a break to the good and the German toughed it out from there, winning 2-6 6-2 6-4. He then put in his best performance for sometime to defeat Nick Kyrgios 6-4 6-4, although the Australian was below par.
Coric, seeded 29th, began his Miami Open in the second round with a three set victory over Leonardo Mayer despite dropping the first set in a tiebreak. He again dropped the first set against the eighth seed Jack Sock, but again fought back to win in three 5-7 7-6 6-3. That set up a match against fellow young star, Denis Shapovalov. Coric won the first set on the tiebreak, but Shapovalov fought back to level the match. The decider was a tense affair, but Coric had just enough to win it 6-4 and advance.
How do they match up?
This match pits the attacking baseliner Zverev against the defensive counterpuncher Coric. Zverev is one of the biggest hitters from the back of the court. The German is able to repeatedly find enough power to hit through an opponent and can generally do so without conceding a costly number of unforced errors. His backhand is his best shot, with Zverev able to impart real venom to it. He is also a fine server, with a powerful, though sometimes errant, first delivery.
His forehand is his weakness. The shot can be broken down and that will surely be Coric’s aim. The Croatian is already one of the best defenders in the game, but not unlike the players he models himself on, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, he can take the game to his opponent when he needs to. It is hard to identify a standout shot in Coric’s game, but that is rather the point. He may not have any obvious weapons, but he is also without obvious weaknesses.
Zverev would do well to get to the forecourt as often as he can. In the slow Miami conditions the task of hitting through Coric from the back of the court will not be an enviable one. It will be important for Zverev to break up his opponent’s rhythm when he can and there will be no better way of doing that than by coming to the net. It will also confer the added benefit of bringing a swift end to points, which will help Zverev.
Coric has the form coming into this match and the conditions in Miami are perfectly suited to his game. It is no surprise that since 2007 when Djokovic first lifted the Miami title, he and Murray have won eight of the eleven titles. Coric, who better earns the right to be compared with them with each passing month, will take advantage of the slow courts to stop Zverev’s attack and break down Zverev to win in three.
Who do you think will win the match? Let us know in the comments below!