In a battle between one of the game’s elder statesmen and a member of the increasingly insurgent youth, 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro takes on 20th seed Borna Coric. For del Potro, it has been his best season since 2009, highlighted by titles in Indian Wells and Acapulco and a run to the last four in Paris. But Coric has had plenty of successes of his own, including winning the second title of his career by beating Federer in the final. But who will win this one?
This will be the first meeting between del Potro and Coric. But where the Argentine may be able to carve out a crucial advantage is in his greater experience. Coric, just 21, has compiled a respectable 108-100 record and won two titles. But this match is his first in the second week of a Major. In contrast, del Potro has won a Grand Slam and reached a further four semifinals and will be aiming to reach his eighth quarterfinal.
Path to the fourth round
After withdrawing from Toronto and falling in the quarterfinals in Cincinnati, del Potro did not arrive in New York foremost amongst the favourites. But he did much to lift the gloom surrounding him with a dominant 6-0 6-3 6-4 win over Donald Young of the United States in the first round. He impressed again in dispatching Young’s countryman Denis Kudla 6-3 6-1 7-6. He was tested by Fernando Verdasco in the third round, but came up with all the answers in a 7-5 7-6 6-3 win.
Coric’s opening match at the US Open pitted him against the veteran Florian Mayer, who was playing his final Major. Coric started well, racing into a 6-2 6-2 lead, but Mayer fought back to win the third set. But in the fourth, Coric closed it out 6-2 6-2 5-7 6-4. He then ousted Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain 7-6 6-2 6-3 to reach the third round for the second year in a row. He then booked his place in the second week by beating Daniil Medvedev 6-3 7-5 6-2.
How do they match up?
This contest will pit the fearsome attack of del Potro against Coric’s impressive defence. The jewel in del Potro’s crown is his fearsome forehand and if he can deploy it regularly against Coric the Croatian’s chances in the match will decline precipitously. His backhand is not the offensive weapon it was before his wrist injuries, but he has been hitting that shot with purpose of late and his slice is one of the most effective in the game.
And he has been firing on all cylinders so far. He has hit 107 winners and 43 aces already. But Coric is an excellent mover and will give little away. He can counterpunch effectively with both his forehand and backhand. It is the latter that is his most reliable shot, however. He defends effectively with it even when pushed wide and is a master of the open stance defending introduced by Djokovic. But he will be aware of the need not to be too passive lest del Potro take the match out of his hands.
Coric has looked impressive so far in New York, particularly against Medvedev. But there is a significant difference in the quality of his three previous opponents and the man waiting for him in the fourth round. Not for nothing is del Potro known as the ‘Tower of Tandil’. When he is playing well, he can unleash an offensive storm that few, if any, can stand before. Expect him to overpower Coric and reach the quarterfinals a victor in four sets.