In a battle of the young guns, fourth seed Alexander Zverev clashes with fellow 20-year-old Borna Coric. Both were tipped for greatness after winning junior Slams, Zverev in Melbourne and Coric in New York. But whilst Zverev has so far more than lived up to expectations, winning Masters 1000 tournaments in Rome and Montreal this year, Coric has struggled. The Croatian has, however, picked up multiple wins against Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. Will he add another scalp to his collection in the fifth match on Grandstand?
Zverev and Coric have met twice, once as juniors and once on the main Tour. Their junior meeting came in the semi-finals at the US Open, which Coric won when both were 16. They met again nearly two years later in Cincinnati. That was a tightly contested match, with the pair splitting the first two sets. The decider went to a tie break but Coric pulled out the win 7-5.
Zverev has, however, progressed more than Coric since then, with six career titles to Coric’s one. He also has 109 tour level match wins whilst Coric has only 73. Neither man has quite yet found their feet at Grand Slam level. Zverev’s best ever result is a fourth round appearance at Wimbledon this year, whilst Coric has never made it beyond the third round. Whichever man wins this match will be making his first trip beyond the second round in New York.
Path to the second round
Zverev began in the first round against Barbadian qualifier Darian King. Despite the apparent gulf between the two, it was a tightly contested match. Zverev had to battle hard in the first set, taking the tie break 9-7. A late break in the second set saw him take a two-set lead, and the third was more comfortable as he wrapped up a 7-6 7-5 6-4 win. But Zverev will likely be looking to sharpen up after making 64 unforced errors over the three sets.
Coric began with a tough assignment against Czech Jiri Vesely. Vesely hits a huge ball and has victories over Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem. Coric had to wait until a tie break in the first set to gain the upper hand, winning it 7-5. The pair headed to another tie break in the second set, which proved decisive. Coric won it seven points to two and dominated the last set. He broke the Czech’s serve twice to seal the match and move into the round of 64 for the second time in New York.
How do they match up?
Zverev, at six feet six inches, has power to spare off the serve and off both wings. His backhand is particularly excellent, in fact, it is arguably already amongst the very best on tour. Zverev’s ability to strike clean and hard with it is particularly impressive, though he doesn’t defend as well with it as Djokovic and Andy Murray. His forehand was initially error-prone when he first arrived on tour but he has tightened the shot up and it now is a formidable weapon.
Coric famously described his style as being like Murray’s on a bad day and Djokovic’s on a good one. Though he is far from the pinnacle of the sport that those two have reached, his statement was not entirely far-fetched. When Coric is at his best, his style does reflect Djokovic’s ability to apply relentless pressure from the baseline. Against most players the Serb attacks almost constantly, simply using accuracy and depth rather than power. This is what separated him from Murray, who lacked the skill and nerve to do the same, preferring to play as a counterpuncher. Whichever style Coric deploys against Zverev, he will need to do so to the best of his abilities. Anything he drops short on will likely be ruthlessly punished by the German. His backhand will also need to be at its best if he is to survive cross-court exchanges with Zverev.
Zverev lacked sharpness in his opening match and he will need to improve on that. The German’s struggles at Slam level this year have all come against experienced opponents. There is no shame in losing to Milos Raonic, Fernando Verdasco or Nadal, the least of whom was a top 10 player and Australian Open semi-finalist. Coric has no more experience than Zverev, and his game is inferior. It’s hard to see how he can defeat the German, who should be able to overpower him. It won’t be easy, but it will be done. Zverev in four.
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