In a clash of the young guns, 29th seeded Borna Coric takes on Canadian star Denis Shapovalov for a place in the Miami Open quarterfinals. Last week, Coric made the Indian Wells semifinals, his deepest run at a Masters 1000. He may well feel he should have gone further after losing a tight match to Roger Federer. Shapovalov also has experience of going deep at a Masters, making his breakout run at the Rogers Cup last year. But who will make the quarterfinals in the Sunshine State?
The pair’s only previous meeting came in the Davis Cup first round earlier this year when Croatia took on Canada. Canada, behind in the tie on the third day needed Shapovalov to find a win to keep them alive in the competition. Unfortunately for the Canadians, Shapovalov found Coric at his defensive best as the Croatian won in straight sets 6-4 6-4 6-4 to knock Canada out and send the Croatians back in to the second round.
Path to the fourth round
Coric, seeded, received a bye in the first round. That saw him begin his tournament against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina, who last week reached the round of 16 in the Californian desert. But despite taking the first set it was to be a second round exit for Mayer this week as Coric rebounded to win 6-7 6-3 6-4. Coric dropped the first set again against eighth seed Jack Sock, but the struggling American was unable to capitalise as Coric fought back to win in three 5-7 7-6 6-3.
Shapovalov began his Miami Open campaign in the first round against Viktor Troicki of Serbia. Troicki had won their only previous encounter in Shanghai last year and came close to doing so again. But ultimately the Canadian was able to tough out a three set win 6-3 6-7 7-6. That set up a meeting with Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur, seeded 24th in Crandon Park. It proved to be a fairly comfortable win for Shapovalov as Dzumhur’s slow start cost him and the Canadian progressed 6-1 7-5.
That left Shapovalov facing Sam Querrey, the American #2, for a place in the round of 16. Shapovalov made the better start, winning the first set six games to four. But Querrey hit back to level the match in the second set to set up a tense decider. Querrey got an early break but couldn’t hold onto it. But he then forced break points at 5-5 that had he won would surely have been the end of Shapovalov’s challenge. But the Canadian fought them off before breaking himself to take the match.
How do they match up?
This is the classic contest between an attacking baseliner and a counterpuncher. Shapovalov brings a big serve and a monstrous forehand into the match. The 18-year-old’s footwork is, already at this early stage in his career, excellent and it is that impressive footwork that allows him to get into position to tee-off with his groundstrokes. However, his backhand is not the weapon that his forehand and serve are. Though aesthetically pleasing, the one-hander can be broken down.
Coric, though naturally less aggressive, is a mover of the highest order. He showed last week in Indian Wells that he can withstand the best of them as he pushed Federer to three sets in a match that he should have won after twice leading by a break in the decider. There are few in the game that defend out of the corners better than Coric and his depth is also usually impressive, denying opponents the opportunity to attack him. In Coric and Chung, who is also in fourth round action, the spirit of Djokovic lives on.
As well as Shapovalov has been playing over the past twelve months, he is still very early in his development. Coric, his elder by three years, is further along in that process and for that reason the Croat will win this match, just as he got the better of Shapovalov earlier in the year. The slow court conditions in Miami will also not help the Canadian’s cause. Coric’s defence will be too good for his opponent and the 29th seed will win in straight sets.
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