Pablo Carreno Busta finished 2017 on a high, playing two matches in the Nitto ATP Finals as an alternate. And the Spaniard appeared he would begin the new ATP World Tour campaign strongly as well Tuesday. He twice served for his season-opening match against Borna Coric at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in the third set, before holding three match points in the eventual tie-break.
But Coric had the courage to step into the court in the big moments and seize the victory from second seed Carreno Busta, surviving the two-hour 41-minute battle 5-7, 6-2, 7-6(8). How did he manage to find his way past the No. 10 player in the ATP Rankings?
“To be honest I don’t know,” Coric said. “It was such a tough match. I think he was serving two times for the match and I was just thinking to myself [that] I was playing good for the whole match and that was my main focus.”
While Coric faced match points at 5/6, 6/7 and 7/8, in the third-set tie-break, he took full advantage of his first opportunity, whipping a forehand approach shot that Carreno Busta could not handle. That shot clinched his fourth Top 10 win since March 2017.
“I think it’s actually quite normal to play better when you’re playing against better players,” Coric said.
That was not the only match to go to a third-set tie-break in Doha on Tuesday, as eighth-seeded Feliciano Lopez snuck past fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(3) to set up a second-round meeting against qualifier Mirza Basic.
Lopez’s victory was not quite as up-and-down as Coric’s. While the left-hander did have a match point on his opponent’s serve at 5-4 in the third set, he cruised through the tie-break, taking advantage of his second opportunity to clinch the battle.
Sixth-seeded Filip Krajinovic, who made waves by advancing to the Rolex Paris Masters final as a qualifier, was not as lucky. Peter Gojowczyk, the 2017 Moselle Open champion, broke five times to beat the Serbian 6-4, 6-1 in 66 minutes.
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